Five teenaged scuba divers took turns guiding Seth Wade underwater in the deep end of a swimming pool near Tarpon Springs recently. They made sure Wade’s regulator stayed firmly in his mouth and …
Mako: Your Ultimate Dive in Isla Mujeres
You’re standing in an underwater cage only about three feet below the ocean’s surface, breathing from a hookah when, suddenly, a streamlined, 600-pound torpedo armed with lots of teeth comes shooting by. Then, without warning, it does a 180 and swims straight toward you. What do you do?
If you are Dr. Guy Harvey–marine scientist, artist and conservationist–or cinematographer George Schellenger, or one of the many guests who’ve chartered the Keen M Blue Water fleet in Isla Mujeres, Mexico over the past decade, you thank your lucky stars for this opportunity to observe the shortfin mako shark up close.
“It was cool,” Harvey said after a trip last year. “Most of them are really interactive. You have a fantastic opportunity to film mako sharks.”
Then, after your dive, if you’re not ready to say goodbye to the fastest sharks in the ocean, Keen M owner/operator Captain Anthony Mendillo will take you on a catch-and-release fishing excursion. Trolling with lures and natural baits will usually result in a hook-up, and if you keep alert, you can snap a photo or video clip of a mako breaching the surface.
“A lot of adrenaline,” Mendillo noted.
The mild Caribbean waters off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are the prime destination for mako catching and diving between mid-March and early May. Harvey plans to be back there for about two weeks in April when he and Mendillo and scientists from the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University will try to implant some makos with satellite tags in their dorsal fins. These SPOT tags transmit the shark’s location to a satellite whenever the fin pops above the surface. That movement data is then downloaded to computers at the institute near Fort Lauderdale where researchers post it online at the GHRI shark tracking web site. Mendillo built a special mobile platform on the stern of his boat so the sharks can be tagged in the water– minimizing stress on the animals.
Harvey and colleagues Mahmood Shivji, Jeremy Vaudo, Michael Byrne, and Brad Wetherbee recently published a first-of-its-kind research study on 26 shortfin makos that they tagged and tracked for up to two years in the Western North Atlantic and the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The sharks– tagged and released off Isla Mujeres and Ocean City, Md. — travelled through the waters of 17 nations where at least seven were harvested by commercial fishers. The scientists warned that makos– prized commercially for their meat and fins and recreationally for their fish-ability–may be at higher risk of being overfished than previous conventional tagging studies suggest.
Harvey and his colleagues recommended a “cautionary interpretation of past stock assessments” of the shortfin mako and the need for close cooperation among Western North Atlantic nations to devise “regionally and seasonally-specific management strategies”– in other words, not taking a one-size-fits-all approach to conserving the species.
To book your adventure interacting with makos go to www.GHOExpeditions.com or call the Outpost Travel Desk at 800-513-5257.