Leaving La Paz   Leave a comment

For the last few days we’ve been based in La Paz trying to hook up with the artesanal shark fishermen that ply the waters on the north side of the bay. Last time we were here I managed to get some good shots of smooth hammerhead sharks but this time the fishermen are even more illusive than the sharks and we have had a great deal of difficulty tracking them down. I was hoping that we could document them while they fish for Pacific sharpnose sharks. This is their main target species that lives year round in La Paz bay and elsewhere along the coast. It is a fairly abundant little shark but it still needs to be carefully monitored to make sure that the sharpnose stocks do not fall to critical levels.

The fishermen average about 5 sharks per trip at this time of year but they take considerably more in winter. The sharks are too small (max one meter) for the Asian fin market but the locals relish the meat and the sharks fetch around 60 pesos (4US$) per kilo at the fish market. That makes their trips worthwhile even if there are not that many sharks around.

We’re planning to try one more time tomorrow to catch them at their fishing camp and then give up and move north.

The Easter holidays (Semana Santa) ramp up over the next few days. Easter is a massive event in Mexico and in Baja anyone with a tent heads to the beach. That means that the beaches around the main population centers down near La Paz will be zoos for the next few days. We want to get as far north as possible in the hopes that we’ll miss the flood of Mexican holiday makers but the chances are that wherever we end up we’ll probably still be swept up in the festivities. That’s ok; ‘when in Rome’ and all that.

I haven’t been in the water much since our last blog but I’ve still been talking sharks. A few days ago we met up with Documentary Maker Mike Hoover at the La Paz opera of all places. I haven’t seen Mike since our last trip to Guadalupe Island. Mike is a fascinating guy. His career in the film industry has been colorful, exciting and tragic in equal measures but his resilience and no nonsense astute personality are what I like about him the most. He is best known for his frontline work in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion and his cutting edge mountaineering films (among others) that have been well received by audiences around the world for decades. He has also worked on blockbusters like Forest Gump, Crimson Tide and The River Wild. More recently, he has been involved with numerous films about Great white sharks aboard his expedition ship the Captain Jack which is how I met Mike for the first time last year.

This time we only managed a short conversation before the singing started so I hope that I get another chance to talk and work with him soon.

Our next stop will be a day’s drive north on one of the white sand beaches around Bahia Conception. There are many beaches that we have never had the time to visit and some that are old favorites. All of them are home to hundreds of tiny Round and Cortez stingrays so we’ll be strapping on the snorkels once again and chasing rays until the sun goes down.

We wanted to keep this tour as fluid as possible but everyone we plan to visit has schedules so we’re slowly having to nail down dates for each adventure. The good news is that we have had a great response from all our friends and some once in a lifetime offers to do some very exciting diving. It now looks like we may be able to take a crack at sevengills in the wild with our shark tagging buddy Walter Heim. And, when we finally get to the Mississippi Delta we have an invitation to join a field trip with Dr Eric Hoffmayer from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. The GCRL is conducting an abundance and distribution study on coastal sharks and rays so that means that we will get to photograph lots of hard to find species like finetooth, Atlantic sharpnose, juvenile bulls and who knows what other sharks, not to mention all the illusive ray species that inhabit that part of the coast – I’ll be in elasmogeek heaven.

You can now follow our schedule at the following link:

http://www.elasmodiver.com/northamericansharkdivingtour.htm#Itinerary

For the sharks

Andy Murch

Shark Pictures

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