By Jillian Brake Morris
We asked seven inspirational divers, environmentalists, and ocean advocates to act as Fin Collection ‘shark ambassadors’, celebrating their work and their special connection with sharks and with the ocean. Jillian represents the Tiger Shark.
Chances are, if you only know a few species of shark, tiger sharks are probably one of them. They are an iconic species found in most of the world’s temperate and tropical waters.
The Bahamas is home to one of the most amazing tiger shark encounters on the planet – Tiger Beach. This is not your typical Caribbean beach, however. You won’t find bikini clad tourists sipping fruity cocktails, instead you will find a predominately female population of 10-15 foot (3-4.5 m) sharks donning beautiful stripes.
This shark Mecca attracts divers, scientists and film crews from around the world. If you have ever watched Shark Week or another program where tiger sharks are swimming in shallow, crystal clear water, then you have seen the sharks of Tiger Beach.
I did my first trip to tiger beach 13 years ago and have been lucky enough to do over 100 dives there. Each dive is different and truly remarkable. Along with the big beautiful tiger sharks, you also get nurse, lemon, great hammerhead and Caribbean reef sharks. It truly is a shark safari. Divers kneel on white sand at a depth of 5-10 meters (16-32 feet) and enjoy the show. The sharks get very close and some are very bold.
They have been given names and “Emma,” is the ultimate celebrity amongst the group. She is the shark everyone wants to see. During my last dive with Emma she was very pregnant. It’s always exciting to see a large female ready to pup, it means hope for the population.
After a 15-16 month gestation period, tiger sharks give live birth to between 10-80 pups. The pups are about 51-76 cm (1-1.5 feet) in length and will double in size during their first year of life. Juveniles have incredibly beautiful and pronounced markings, for which they are named.
Tiger sharks are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Redlist. This highly migratory species is targeted in both commercial and artisanal fisheries as well as being caught as bycatch. They are also considered a prize game fish for recreational fishermen.
The Bahamas was established as a shark sanctuary in 2011 and research has shown the value of keeping sharks alive. A study done in 2015 by the Cape Eleuthera Institute found that sharks and rays generate 113.8 million USD annually through ecotourism. Not only do these animals play a critical role in healthy ecosystems, they are also extremely important for the economy.
The Bahamas is considered “The Shark Diving Capital,” of the world and it’s easy to see why. Crystal clear water, easy dive conditions and very healthy and diverse shark populations.
Tiger sharks have unique personalities and if you spend time with them, it’s very apparent. Some are really bold, while others take longer to approach the line of divers. Some get into the groove of the feeding routine, approaching the feeder from the same side each time. Others will approach from all angles. They are curious but can also be very cautious. I’ve seen a tiger shark in the distance for over 45 minutes before it came close the dive line. It really is remarkable to see.
Tiger sharks will also make eye contact with you, which is one of the most amazing experiences. Looking into the eye of such a magnificent and powerful creature will take your breath away. I’ve studied and dived with tiger sharks around the world and they remain one of my favourite animals.
“If tiger sharks are on your list, it’s definitely the place to visit! Please make sure to select a local operator who supports conservation, research and education initiatives. Please also make sure they are respectful to the animals. Shark diving is amazing and tiger sharks and one of the most incredible species to get in the water with.” Jillian Brake Morris
Image Credits: Jillian Morris, Danny Tayenaka, Lizzie Daly
OceanPositive Tiger Bikini
This sporty crop top gives the ultimate fit beneath a wetsuit. The reversible styling offers the freedom to choose between block colour or pattern.