Diving with great white sharks at Guadalupe Island

SAN DIEGO -- Hollywood likes to portray the great white shark as a mindless eating machine, but the truth is far from it.

Jimi Partington, dive master at Islander Charters, said it's not always what gets shown on TV.

"The media can portray them in a completely different light to what we see on a daily basis out here," Partington said.

Guadalupe Island, located about 200 miles southwest of San Diego, is just one of the few places in the world where they are protected, tagged and monitored.

It's about a day's boat ride away from a dock in Ensenada, Mexico but the experience will open your eyes into why we need continued conservation efforts to protect sharks.

"We have a great population of great white sharks. It's one of the most important around the world due to the fact in other regions of the world, particularly South Africa and Australia, there has been a lot of fishing towards the great white shark," says Erika Alarcon, a marine biologist with the Mexican government.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. The fins provide luxury items like shark fin soup and traditional Chinese medicines.

Some shark populations have declined by up to 98% in the last 15 years.

"The reason they can't keep up with that rate is because some of these animals take up to 15 years to sexually mature," says Partington. "It doesn't take a scientist to figure out if we start fishing these animals out too quickly, before they can start reproducing, we're going to have a big problem on our hands."

Sharks are like bees in the sense that when you loose sharks in your ecosystem the ecosystem itself starts to fall apart. A good example would be the presence of a shark signaling a healthy reef.

"If we'll have environmental education, and we learn how to protect the natural environment, we can be sure for the rest of our years everything will be in balance," says Alarcon.


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