Up to now there has been one species on my wish list that has always eluded me….. the Hammerhead Shark! I can now tick it off my list as we saw a solitary seven footer disappearing into the blue as we started our first dive off South Water Caye, Belize. I was so surprised that I had to get confirmation from my fellow divers that it was in fact the Hammerhead and not a trick of the light.
Hammerhead sharks acquire their name from the unusual shape of their head which is flattened forming two lobes which extend out to either side, making a very distinctive silhouette. Their favourite food is stingrays and the females hatch their eggs inside the uterus, thereby giving birth to live young, which is fairly unusual in the shark world.
Sadly of the nine species found worldwide two of them are now classed as endangered due to sharply declining populations these are the Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) and the Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). Like all sharks they get a bad rap as being dangerous to humans, reality is that only one of these species the Great Hammerhead is considered dangerous to humans because of its aggressive behaviour and large size.
Around one hundred shark attacks are reported globally per year, of those approximately seventeen are fatalities, most shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity in that the human is in a area where sharks feed and looks like food…… a wet suit clad surfer looks very much like a seal from below. Despite their relative rarity, many people fear shark attacks after films such as the Jaws series. The creator of the Jaws phenomenon, Peter Benchley attempted, unsuccessfully to dispel the myth of sharks being man-eating monsters in the years before his death.
I feel extremely honored to have seen one of these rare creatures, I have seen many sharks during my 22 years of diving, even been on a couple of “Shark feeding” dives and have never felt threatened. Truth is they have more to fear from us! It is estimated that over 70 Million sharks are slaughtered each year to feed the Shark Fin industry! That is twice the population of Canada folks!
I might also mention that I did multiple dives in the South Water Caye area twenty years ago when I volunteered with Coral Cay Conservation, I saw lots of sharks but no Hammerheads. This time we did three dives and saw only the one shark………….
I see for myself every time I dive how few of these majestic creatures are left, we as humans are upsetting a balance that has been in place for millennium. All for a piece of cartilage, with no nutritional value or taste………. It is of course the primary ingredient in that expensive prized “delicacy” Shark Fin Soup. Please do the world a favour and say no!