Last year we founded Shark Business certain that ecotourism can play a vital role in the conservation of sharks and their ecosystem, after nearly two years of research and investigation.
Prior to its launch we dedicated considerable resources and time into visiting shark tourism operators around the world to learn as much as we possibly could about the shark diving industry.
During our travels we were able to dive with many species of sharks and made many friends along the way. While we took away something useful from every experience there was one particular operator who taught us more than any other, Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) in Fiji.
BAD offer exhilarating action packed dives with large numbers of Bull sharks but the project is about much more than just shark diving. They are a marine conservation project who have proven over time that diving with sharks can benefit both shark populations and the entire community.
While many others seek media attention and fame, BAD are quietly achieving real conservation results in Fiji. By working closely with government and the traditional owners of the land in the past decade they have managed to have the entire area designated as a protected Marine Park, the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
Fishing is prohibited in the reserve and this is enforced passionately by local wardens and employees of the company. Since this protection has been in place, fish numbers have continued to increase every year. More than 460 species of fish including more than seven different species of sharks can be found here. Although fishing is banned, the local community are compensated with a percentage of the income from the shark dive, giving them even more incentive to protect the area. Conditions are continuously improving because people understand the benefits that shark tourism brings. Unlike many other places we visited, the local people in Fiji truly appreciate and value the sharks in their oceans, which in our opinion is the future of shark conservation.
We were also lucky enough to join them on many exciting shark dives and watch how things were done from a more practical point of view. Safety is the number one priority and irresponsible behaviour, that is often seen in other places, is strongly discouraged. The sharks are treated with respect and everything is done to minimise risk.
It was fascinating for us to watch the mechanics of the dive from another perspective and we again learnt many things that we plan to implement in the future during our own interactions with sharks.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the BAD guys invest substantial time and resources on scientific research in an effort to learn more about the species and their habitat and to monitor the long term effects of their conservation efforts. Their database is extensive, complete and a dream for any biologist working with sharks.
After only a few days diving with Beqa Adventure Divers we realised that they had quickly become our role model company. The project offers benefits for all participants: tourists, the local community, scientists, the marine ecosystem and most importantly the sharks.
We would like to once again thank all of the team for their encouragement and ongoing support and hope to be able to achieve something similar with Shark Business one day.
For divers BAD offer what Valerie Taylor named “the best shark dive in the world”. For Shark conservationists, they are the perfect example of how ecotourism can be a realistic solution to future conservation efforts.
I’m sure many of you know that Fiji was recently badly affected by Typhoon Winston. The worst thing divers can do now is stay away. The country needs tourism now more than ever, there has never been a better time to go shark diving in Fiji!
Those looking to keep up to date with the latest goings on in the world of shark conservation and research as well as no holds barred but honest assessments of the shark diving industry can find a veritable encyclopaedia of information here: The Best Shark Dive in the World!
Shark lovers… If you haven’t seen this blog yet then where have you been?