Go cage diving with sharks.....in Cornwall.


Blackleaf
#1
The Times July 22, 2006


Come to Cornwall . . . and go cage diving with sharks
By Simon de Bruxelles


Lovely: Looe, Cornwall


Padstow , Cornwall


MALLY TOMS has been fishing for sharks from the Cornish port of Looe for more than 40 years but this is the first time that anyone has asked him to make friends with one.

The skipper of the Jo-Dam is helping to test Britain’s first cage-diving trips and looks sceptical as an 8ft-high steel cage is lowered on to the deck of his boat. “This will never work,” Mr Toms said.

Cage-diving is a popular sport in South Africa and Australia and offers divers the chance to come nose to snout with sharks. The Cornish waters are home to at least two species of large predatory shark and, starting next weekend, divers will be able to see them up close.

Richard Peirce, a shark conservationist, plans to run a dozen trips over the next few months, six from Looe on the south coast of Cornwall and six from Padstow on the north.

He said that divers would be able to see the blue shark — a very “sharky-shark” — off Looe and, off Padstow, the porbeagle, a barrel-chested cousin of the great white that usually grows more than 10ft long. He and Mr Toms will lay a trail of “chum”, a mix of mashed-up mackerel, to attract the sharks to the boat, then lower paying guests inside the cage into the water. Guests will be told to keep their fingers and any other extremities safely behind the bars.

Mr Peirce said that 1,000 people had applied for the 85 places available on this season’s schedule. Although the current £85-a-head trips are non-profit making, Mr Peirce hopes that the skippers of other shark boats will be encouraged to follow his example.

In the 1950s and 1960s anglers taking the shark boats out of Looe would catch up to 6,000 blue sharks a year, as well as the occasional giant, such as the 10ft-long makos and threshers whose portraits line the walls of the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain. In the past ten years, however, the number of sharks has fallen dramatically. This season Looe’s 11 shark boats have hooked just 200, well down on previous years, even though every shark is released after being tagged. Sharks tagged in Looe have been killed mid-migration as far away as the Gulf of Mexico and the north Atlantic.

Mr Peirce said: “Very little is known about sharks compared to cetaceans [whales and dolphins] because they don’t need to come to the surface to breathe. The only evidence for how many there are comes from the catch record and, at the current rate, we are well on the way to wiping them out.”

He sees shark-diving as a great opportunity for both conservation and Cornish tourism. “We are never going to compete with the Costa Brava for sunshine, so we need to take advanatage of the assets we do have, such as our spectacular coastline and our wildlife,” he said.

“I want to remove that frisson of fear and create shark enthusiasts. Once people come close to these powerful majestic creatures they look at them in a completely different way.”

Mr Toms said: “This gives us another string to our bow. I’ve always enjoyed diving myself. When people see these sharks they are just going to be overjoyed.”

thetimesonline.co.uk
 
Simpleton
#2
Wait a cotton picking minute! There's no sharks anywhere near Cornwall, Ontario. And who the heck would want to be in a cage with a shark anyhow? :P
 

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