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OCEAN AND JUAN FREQUENT MEDIA QUESTIONS
TELL US ABOUT YOU, YOUR UPBRINGING AND HOW YOU BECAME SUCH A DEVOTEE TO SHARK CONSERVATION.
OCEAN: I grew up in the water with a dad that was an avid diver/dive instructor and a mom that loves nature and loves to swim. I just fell in love with sharks and was instantly fascinated from the moment I saw my first shark. Later, after learning that people were being brainwashed by media to believe they are mindless killers, I felt compelled to share my personal first-hand experiences and speak up for them.
JUAN: I grew up on the north shore of Oahu and was terrified of sharks from seeing them on TV and seeing them while surfing. It all changed once I went diving with them and from that first dive I totally fell in love and have been using my time and talents to do all I can to help save them.
OCEAN CAN YOU LIST ALL OF YOUR CERTIFICATIONS/QUALIFICATIONS? DON'T BE MODEST.
Thank you so much for asking! I am the lead conservationist, marine biologist, ethologist, head field researcher, safety diver, and founder of One Ocean Diving. I have worked with over 32 different species of sharks all over the world for over a decade. I am a professional scuba and free dive instructor as well as extensively trained in all things safety! Safety is ALWAYS my number one priority and I like to teach others how to be as safe as possible and how to handle emergency situations. I am an emergency oxygen instructor, AED instructor, 1st aid instructor, CPR instructor, Wilderness EMT, certified for on-site neurological assessment, and a DAN diving emergency management provider. I also spearhead a lot of our own unique research on shark behaviors among other studies at One Ocean Diving.
WHEN DID ONE OCEAN DIVING START - WHAT YEAR?
One Ocean Diving has been a personal project for Ocean Ramsey and Juan Oliphant for a long time but I believe the vision came into focus in 2011-2012.
HOW'S YOUR AVERAGE DAY STRUCTURED?
My average day I am based in Hawaii. I am up at 5am. I help get a research vessel in the water and go out to three or more survey sites to collect information on sharks for a collaborative data set for 4 current on-going studies. On calm weather days up to six people join me at a time to learn about biology, physiology, general behavior, and specific body language of sharks. After learning about shark body language, participants learn about how their behavior plays into respectfully swimming with them in the safest manner. I am able to collect data while guiding persons in the water as a safety diver and naturalist/biologist. The experience is usually described by participants afterwards as one of the best experiences of their lives and they will never look at sharks the same. Most people post photos and videos of their experience with information they learned during the program about the plight, importance, and reality of sharks. Its a wonderful project being able to facilitate that fear to fascination. The Hawaii project I feel has reached so many people and made a huge lasting real impact in so many peoples lives, its a very feel good project that is growing respect for sharks at a very fast rate.
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, EVEN THE GREAT WHITE: DID YOU EVER EXPERIENCE FEAR OR LIVE THROUGH SOME DANGEROUS MOMENTS?
OCEAN: I have studied and interacted with sharks for many years so I like to replace fear with education. If you know and understand sharks first hand, you see they are not the “man-eating” feared animals that the media tells us. However, sharks are apex predators, so they do deserve a lot of respect. They are very powerful animals and are very capable. The amazing thing about sharks is that they display behaviors that you can read to let you know how they are feeling in a situation. If sharks want you out of their territory, they let you know with signs and behaviors before it escalates to a bite. Sharks go to a bite for the last resort. They are smart and don’t want to get injured themselves so they try to warn their peers by saying “I don’t want you here get out of my space” with they body language first. If you see a shark drop its pectoral fins, pop its gills, or open its mouth, it is a good idea to remove yourself from their area.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT ITS LIKE TO SWIM WITH A GREAT WHITE SHARK AND SHARE THIER WATER WITH THEM?
When you’re in the presence of a white shark you truly have a natural respect for them and their power and size. It really is unlike being around any other species of shark. You can see how cognitive they are when evaluating their surroundings and discovering the other living things around them. You can really recognize and feel their intelligence. Its also similar to meeting a person because with these sharks each individual one has a different temperament and demeanor than the other. Its almost hard to just put into words how genuine of an interaction it is.
WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON/ IN THE FURTURE?
I am doing a Nature Virtual Reality series, I tag sharks in different parts of the world assisting in science, I have conservation projects in many parts of the world, and as issues present themselves we aim to cater to the needs of the ocean and its inhabitants to help establish and expand protection through education, awareness, media, and political moves. With @OneoceanResearch we are conducting new studies on the economic value of sharks versus the economic value of a dead shark.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED IN YOUR CAUSES?
Our biggest way of getting involved is to come out and check out One Ocean Diving, learn about shark biology and behavior, and get your own experience shark diving. We've already got a good handle on sharks, we know them pretty well, and it's great to come out and learn the shark behavior. Besides doing that with One Ocean Diving, our program now with Water Inspired, we're also doing a Shell for Sharks benefit to help... By buying the shells or adopting a shark program, that goes back into shark research and shark conservation. One Ocean Diving, fifty percent of the proceeds goes to Water Inspired and goes back into... getting scientists out to different locations to get the research done. The research is a huge part of conservation, because with identifying hot spots where sharks congregate, where the birthing grounds are, they can get protection for those areas, and then that understanding of the animals so that we can obviously ensure their survival is huge.
WHAT CAN THE AVERAGE PERSON DO TO HELP SHARK POPULATIONS?
The best thing everyone can do to help sharks is speak up for them! To change the common perception of sharks from fear into fascination is one of my greatest goals. But even simple tasks like reading and learning more about sharks, recycling plastic, cleaning up trash when you go to the beach, all of these things contribute to healthier oceans. I recommend watching documentaries like Shark Water and Racing Extinction versus fear based movies that only profit off of peoples fear and misinformation. We started One Ocean Global for those that would like to help in a more hands on manner and become an ambassador with our company. These ambassadors can do presentations and events to assist in conservation efforts globally- land and sea.
It’s also important to support shark-friendly sites and shops. For example, don’t buy shark teeth unless you are positive they are fossilized and not harvested from live sharks to be sold for profit, I personally generally do not like to wear a shark tooth because I don't think other people looking at trends might be as thoughtful and conscious about where their shark tooth may have been collected . Don’t eat shark fin soup and moderate seafood consumption. When we unsustainably take from the oceans, it effects shark populations and can bring sharks further inshore than normal to find food.
SHARK CULLING IS SEEN BY MANY AS A NECESSARY EVIL PUT IN PLACE TO PROTECT BEACHGOERS AND SURFERS- WHAT WOULD BE AN EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVE TO THIS PRACTICE?
This is a great question! There are actually many alternatives to preventing shark encounters rather than the inhumane killing of sharks. If there are shark sightings, we could easily close beaches and not permit people to enter the water. Sharks live in the ocean. They are going to be there. I find it a bit inconsiderate of humans to feel that they own the ocean so much, that they can actually kill sharks for only following their natural instincts as apex predators. We have learned over and over again with many studies that taking a link out of the chain of an ecosystem will affect all areas. Sharks have a vital role as apex predators and we need them to help regulate a lot of the animals below them. It would also be more beneficial to tag these animals to better study why they may be coming in to shore looking for food. We could discover if their primary food source is being over fished, if something is attracting them to a certain area, patterns in their migration, and so much more that could prevent encounters in a more healthy, sustainable, and scientific manner. There are also eco-barriers which are nylon netting that prevents large animals for coming in but is also recyclable. They can be expensive but are more cost efficient than the price of culling.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF SHARK CULLING, BOTH ON SHARK POPULATION AS WELL AS THE EARTH'S ECOSYSTEMS?
Sharks act as the white blood cells of the ocean. So, sort of like the doctors of the sea. In general they hunt the dead, dying, weak and injured fish. This leaves only the strong to survive. If you’ve ever had a fish tank, you know that when one fish has a disease it can spread very quickly to the rest of the tank. The sharks help regulate that on a much larger scale. Thats just one small example. Ultimately, if sharks are killed off, which is where they are headed at this rate, than the smaller marine life will over populate, including the marine life that feeds on phytoplankton. Phytoplankton consumes carbon dioxide and turns it into oxygen. 70% of our earths oxygen comes from the ocean. If the levels of phytoplankton decrease, it will affect our earths oxygen levels, which will affect humans.
HOW COME THE SHARKS ARE OKAY WITH YOU SWIMMING WITH THEM? WHY DONT THEY "ATTACK"?
Sharks are intelligent, curious, graceful and very misunderstood animals. Most people believe that sharks act like the movie “Jaws” and are man eating animals, however, this is not true. Sharks actually tend to be more scared of us than we are of them! Even though sharks are typically very afraid of us, they are still very powerful animals and deserve respect. There are many techniques that people can use to swim with sharks safely. One important rule is to always maintain eye contact with the shark. This is how we communicate with them. You should never turn your back on a shark and put yourself in a compromising position. It is also important to stay very calm, swim slowly and efficiently, and lower your heart rate as much as possible. This lets sharks know that you are an equal predator in the ocean and not an injured or panicked animal. There are many other guidelines that we explain to people when we bring them out on a tour. Sharks are so intelligent they actually will give you many "warning signs" with their behavior before escalating to a bite or another aggressive behavior. That is why it is important for people to study and understand sharks versus live out of fear.
EACH YEAR THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL HOSTS ITS RETURNING MARATHON "SHARK WEEK". THESE PROGRAMS USE DESCIPTORS LIKE MENACING, DEADLY, AND MONSTER WHEN REFERRING TO SHARKS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
The existence of Shark Week could be a great tool for reaching millions with a scientific, factual, educational approach to understanding sharks and the marine environment. Unfortunately, Discovery still has that sensationalist aspect to their show and to keep viewers hooked, they still play into that “Jaws” fear, although from time to time they do feature some quality scientists, I hope it will improve because at the moment it seems they do more to vilify sharks and extremely little to help promote any conservation of the animals they are capitalizing off of.
IS IT TRUE THAT WE'VE HEARD THAT SHARKS CAN SENSE FEAR OR WOULD BE MORE LIKELY TO ATTACK A PANICKED SWIMMER?
Sharks are perfectly evolved predators. They have jelly-filled pored around their snout called Ampullae of Lorenzini that pick up electrical signals. Every living thing gives off electrical signals. When you are panicking by moving erratically, splashing, or waving your arms around, you give off the impression that you are an animal in distress. This piques a sharks curiosity and they will come in to investigate. They won’t attack if you just nervous, but when you give off physical displays of distress and fear, they will home in on that. When you are calm and maintain eye contact, you establish yourself as a fellow predator and they are much more likely to give you the space you want.
DO SURFERS HAVE A VALID REASON TO FEAR SHARKS IN THE LINEUP, OR IS IT AN EXAGGERATED FEAR?
Considering how many millions of surfers and swimmers enjoy the ocean everyday often dressed or acting like sharks natural prey items (surfers resembling seals or turtles, and swimmers splashing like injured marine animals) it is a testament to the sharks sensory systems that mistaken identity bites are so rare. More people now than ever have go pros and cameras and we have more shark tags now than ever that prove that sharks do regularly swim past surfers and swimmers and paddlers and they turn away able to identify they are not a natural prey item. There are areas and parts of the world that during certain seasons it would not be advisable to surf or swim there due to the sharks natural migration patterns or utilization of a territory for hunting, mating, or pupping. As shark science develops we are increasing our knowledge and advising the public how best to adapt their own behavior.
HOW CAN SURFERS LOWER THEIR RISKS OF A SHARK ENCOUNTER OR "ATTACK"?
Dont surf when there are shark sightings. Dont surf alone, surf in higher numbers. Dont surf in murky waters. Dont surf too far off shore. Dont sure where there are people fishing. Keep your feet up on your board. Keep moving. Sitting still and moving can appear as an animal that is injured or not paying attention. (easy target) Keep moving around even if its just slowly panning your board side to side you would appear to be an animal that is looking around verses sitting still you may appear to be a dead animal aka easy target
ADVICE TO ANYONE HOPING TO MAKE HIS OR HER PASSION FOR THE OUTDOORS INTO A CAREER OR PROFESSION?
Believe anything can happen. Believe one person can change the world. Believe in your cause. Find what you love and work hard to protect it. The rest will follow suit.
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