While we’re going to file this under the “don’t try this at home” category, a promotional video for the GoPro underwater camera showing a free diver from Hawaii swimming with a great white shark is bringing immense amounts of attention to this majestic predator, and encouraging many to rethink the great white’s fearsome “Jaws” reputation.
The video, entitled “A Blonde and a Great White Shark” shows diver Ocean Ramsey (yes, you read that right) approaching a great white shark and stroking the shark’s back before gently holding its dorsal fin while it swims through clear azure waters. With more than half a million views, the video, appropriately released on Valentine’s Day, shows that the great white shark as a magnificent ocean creature to be respected, loved, and protected, rather than a deadly man-eater to be feared. Ramsey’s website, www.waterinspired.com, quotes the Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum: “ ‘In the end people will only protect what they love, and only love what they understand . . .’ I hope that by sharing my experiences with sharks I might inspire others to take action and help protect these amazing creatures before it's too late,” Ramsey writes.
Growing up surfing and diving in Hawaii and San Diego, Ramsey is no stranger to shark encounters, but on her website she is clear that her video, while inspiring, is not something that others should replicate:
I'm not advising that people go out and just jump in to the water with Great Whites, just as I wouldn't recommend jumping into a yard with a strange dog. Sharks do need to be respected as wild animals and appreciated for their role as top predators in the ocean ecosystem. My shark experiences have all been positive in part because while I know sharks are not mindless man-eaters, I simultaneously have respect for their capabilities, a lot of experience interacting with animals and reading body language, behavior, and I am comfortable with my own water abilities while also trusting my dive partner. Given the number of surfers and swimmers who frequent shark territory in low visibility often dressed in black wetsuits or floating on surfboards portraying a seal-like silhouette, it is a huge testament to sharks sensory systems and intelligence that mistaken identity bites "attacks" are so rare. Like many animals, individual sharks display different dispositions and personalities or temperaments and not all are comfortable with or interested in interaction with humans.
It's sad to think that the human race could be responsible for the extinction of such vital and beautiful animals. Sharks are being over fished and finned at unsustainable rates. IUCN, the main authority on the conservation status of species worldwide, has Great Whites, Tiger sharks, and other species on the Red list as vulnerable to extinction and threatened. There are estimated to be less than 400 great whites in the North Pacific and less than 3,500 great white sharks left worldwide. More than eighteen million people die from starvation and 1.2 million from car accidents. Crocodiles kill more than 2,500 people per year, and even they are protected in many areas. The world offers little to no protection for sharks. Sharks are vital to the oceans and planet. They need and deserve to be protected. Please help save sharks by signing the petition at: www.Oceana.org.
Technology is working in leaps and bounds to bring the beauty and magnificence of the world under the ocean’s surface to us, and passionate individuals like Ocean Ramsey are bringing this underwater world to us to demonstrate that these creatures are not to be feared, but respected and protected. Thanks to hard work by Oceana and other conservation groups, great whites are nearing Endangered Species protection in California, but they remain at serious risk of extinction. With Oceana's work and your support, great white sharks may finally be designated as an endangered species and get the protections that they deserve. Sign our petition to give these majestic creatures a future.