Diving with Steven of Wall-to-Wall divers turned out to be a mix of “intense fear and excitement” for visitors Joey Lopez and his girlfriend, Michelle Taulman when they spotted a 10-foot Tiger shark last week, an encounter which they caught on video.
The video, shot on Joey’s GoPro camera, vividly depicted a curious Tiger shark getting closer and closer to them at the Black Forrest dive site. The experience seemed really intense at one point when the Tiger Shark was facing Joey and his camera. Instead of retreating, however, Joey kept filming.
The video becomes more powerful as Joey’s breathing becomes noticeable and he could be heard underwater fidgeting with his GoPro stick.
I have my GoPro stick on a lanyard around my wrist but had taken it off in case I had to use the stick to avoid being bitten. I didn’t want to be dragged along with it. The shark looked well over 400 pounds and simply way more powerful than I could ever be.
The thoughts that Joey shared probably explains his breathing in anticipation of what the shark could have done next as it came within 20 feet of him.
The next thing that happened though is that the Tiger Shark displayed a magnificent, sideways view, then disappeared from sight into a part of the underwater which had the presence of a mist. Not knowing exactly where the Tiger Shark was (even for a few moments) made it difficult in the video to determine what plans the Tiger shark had or where it would emerge from again.
Dive master thought it was a reef shark
Joey explained to Loop News that he tried to tell the divemaster that he and Michelle spotted a Tiger shark soon after entering the water, however, it appeared that the divemaster thought it “was a reef shark seen in the area quite frequently.”
[The divemaster] started banging on his tank not knowing it was a Tiger. We were extremely frightened at first, but noticed the shark was not aggressive and more curious.
Tiger shark near boat, above divers (Photo credit: Joey Lopez and Michelle Taulman)
Respect for the animal
Although initially scared and experiencing an “adrenaline rush,” Joey said that “you always have to respect the animal.”
The Department of Environment of the Cayman Islands (DoE) agrees with this need to respect sharks as well as they continue to stress on their website that “sharks represent keystone species in the marine environment” and “sharks are vital for healthy coral reefs by helping to keep corals and reef fish communities healthy, in balance and thriving.”
The DoE added that “recent studies have shown that the removal of Caribbean reef sharks from the reef environment can lead to the degradation and eventual smothering of the coral reef by algae.”
This action is facilitated by the initial boost in smaller predatory species, such as grouper and snapper, which then remove the herbivorous species, such as parrotfish, from the reef. Without their prey, grouper and snapper then decline in number. Sharks are also valuable to the tourism industry. In Cayman, the total economic value of sharks is estimated to be between US$80 million and US$130.7 million annually to the Cayman economy. This encourages both a healthier marine environment and sustainable management of these important species.
I’ll be back!
Describing the Tiger shark siting as “a dive of a lifetime,” Joey said he is hoping to come back from Indianapolis, Indiana to Cayman, possibly for good, in about two years when he plans to retire and perhaps, offer his skills to Cayman as an air traffic controller.
Joey also indicated his appreciation for the Cayman Islands government for having programmes to protect sharks.
The reef and wall here is our absolute favourite and [we] applaud the Cayman Govt for taking steps to protect it.
Joey and Michelle