Researchers get much closer than expected with hungry sharks in Papua New Guinea
The first step in protecting a species is to understand it and promote the benefit of conservation. This requires an in depth look at the role the animal plays in the ecosystem in which it loves.
These researchers got closer than they expected to hungry sharks in the remote waters of Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea. They chartered the FV FeBrina with Captain Alan and set out to record silvertip sharks in their natural habitat. They had hoped to witness the sharks feeding but they did not expect to have such a close look. The sharks swam excitedly around as the photographers and videographers placed themselves carefully on chunks of the volcanic rock that rise for the ocean bottom.
The structures here are spectacular and the animal life thrives where the upwellings have stretched up toward the shallower waters where the the light penetrates and supports the growth of coral and algae. These structures also support plants and small fish that attract larger ones. Sharks are the apex predators that are crucial for keeping the delicate balances in check. They prey on the sick and the weak and they prevent the overpopulation of many other species.
The silvertips here are strikingly beautiful. They are also formidable and they are bold enough to test any animal in their territory, including humans. Their curiosity brings them close to the researchers and they make attempts to bump one of them. If unchallenged, this can lead to aggression and it may quickly become a dangerous situation. Although each species differs in their behaviour and the correct response to aggression is very different for each. The best approach with a silvertip is to not show fear. A quick jab sent this one on its way. Although the contact was light, and harmless to the nine foot shark, it sent a clear message to move away.
Papua New Guinea is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The animals are unique and fascinating. They are crucial to the health of the ocean, and even the planet. When we learn to respect their complex and valuable role, we will then learn how to protect them.
PNG offers world class diving and unforgettable sights. An excursion aboard the FeBrina is the best way to see the ocean life up close.