• December 18, 2013

Brian Skerry Shines a Light on Sharks

Brian Skerry

Thirty-one years ago I encountered my first shark underwater. It was a blue shark, about five feet in length, swimming off the coast of Rhode Island. I can recall vividly how elegantly this animal moved, like a fluid fighter jet cruising through temperate seas. That experience hooked me on sharks, and in the years since I have found them a quintessential photo subject—representing the perfect blend of grace and power. But as beautiful as these animals are visually, I have become increasingly interested in producing stories about their lives because I have realized how important they are to our planet and that they are in trouble.

When I swam with my first shark in 1982, few divers were actually hoping to see sharks on their dives. Misconceptions were commonplace and few believed anything good could come from such an encounter. In more recent times however, attitudes have changed and many divers now regularly travel to places where they can see sharks—and as a result, legions of shark ambassadors have been created. Despite this evolution in attitude among many, sharks continued to be maligned. And when an animal is viewed as dangerous or bad, eliminating them invites little objection.

A tiger shark swims in the northern Bahamas at a location known as 'Tiger Beach.' This place has become an eco-tourism attraction for divers wanting to see tiger sharks. Although it is generally safe to swim with sharks here, tiger sharks are still serious predators and potentially dangerous.
A tiger shark swims in the northern Bahamas at a location known as ‘Tiger Beach.’ This place has become an eco-tourism attraction for divers wanting to see tiger sharks. Although it is generally safe to swim with sharks here, tiger sharks are still serious predators and potentially dangerous.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans each year across the planet. We cannot remove this many predators from any ecosystem and expect things to remain healthy. Killing sharks damages the ocean, and an unhealthy ocean hurts everything, including us. As a photojournalist focused on marine wildlife and ocean issues, and as someone who appreciates sharks, I feel a sense of responsibility and a sense of urgency to shine a big light on these animals as a way of raising awareness.

Although the lives of these animals remain enigmatic, there have been fascinating discoveries made by researchers, which along with the use of new photographic technologies make this a perfect and vital time for such stories.

Vincent Canabal is an emergency room surgeon who recently, with his wife, Deb, began Epic Diving—a shark diving eco-tourism business in the Bahamas. Although the sharks are generally well behaved, the divers do not use cages, so there is always the potential for danger.
Vincent Canabal is an emergency room surgeon who recently, with his wife, Deb, began Epic Diving—a shark diving eco-tourism business in the Bahamas. Although the sharks are generally well behaved, the divers do not use cages, so there is always the potential for danger.

Last week I began my new shark journey with a brief scouting trip to the Bahamas, and a place called Tiger Beach. I was last in this location nearly nine years ago while photographing a National Geographic story about sharks of the Bahamas. I was curious to see if much had changed and if tigers could still be seen in healthy numbers. A few dives told me that if anything, the shark numbers have increased and that this unique place has grown as an ecotourism hotspot for divers willing to come nose to nose with very large, predatory sharks.

In the time ahead, I will be continuing this photographic journey, lifting the veil that has shrouded sharks to cast light on their lives in the sea. I believe that awareness will be followed by concern, followed by conservation.

Brian Skerry is a wildlife photographer for National Geographic magazine, specializing in marine wildlife and underwater environments. View a video interview with him on Proof, and read his account of finding a dolphin 22 years after she was first photographed for National Geographic. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Also, read more about swimming with sharks in this Proof post featuring photographer Thomas Peschak.

There are 43 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. eunique
    November 6, 2015

    I love animals but, i think sharks are dangerous and cool (#)

  2. eunique
    November 6, 2015

    I’m terrified of sharks how do you make it look so safe? I couldnt ever get that close to a shark 🙂

  3. russell buker
    March 8, 2014

    they are beautiful and I commend your storyline about our wrecking the ecosystem out of fear

  4. MarkmBha
    January 1, 2014

    Wild shots with sharks.

  5. William
    December 30, 2013

    Very nice work

  6. Felix Christian
    December 29, 2013

    Very impressive, I like it. Sharks are God’s creations and we are responsible in taking care of them not harm them. I love sharks and people who harms them are totally unforgivable.

  7. Aliny
    December 28, 2013

    Excellent work, the world needs to know this wonder!

  8. Alexander
    December 26, 2013

    Lindas imágenes.

  9. Ismael Amrani
    December 26, 2013

    Great article and the best choice is Epic Diving

  10. Luke W.
    December 21, 2013

    I praise you. I’ve always wanted to be a marine biologist and we’ll the fisheries just don’t get to see this amazing creature in action, they get to see the destruction of the ocean

  11. Daw Aye Mon
    December 20, 2013

    Great Job, I love animals and nature. I respect you.

  12. hal.oberheide
    December 20, 2013

    Villagers in tiger teeritory of the wilds in India have speak that equates their activity to the spiritual awareness of life!

  13. Frederic
    December 19, 2013

    Take a look at a this movie: SHARK WATER. Men are really killing sharks for nothing…

  14. Faster King
    December 19, 2013

    Great job

  15. Christine
    December 19, 2013

    I can’t wait to swim with my first shark…they’re so beautiful and need our help and respect to maintain their habitats…thank you so much for these gorgeous photos and the chance to see the tiger shark from your perspective…

  16. Dr. David Domenech
    December 19, 2013

    La sensación de bucear y las presencia de éste maravilloso animal convierte en única una inmersión. Indescriptible

  17. Jupp Baron Kerckerinck
    December 19, 2013

    I learned diving at the age of 60 thanks to my daughter Philipa. When I saw my first shark from a cage I decided to swim with them outside of a cage. I felt the same way about sharks as Brian did and over the years I began to fall in love with them. Today I’m 74 years old and I still swim with sharks. I wrote a book on my experiences called: “Sharks a Love Story” which was also published in German as “Haie, eine Liebesgeschichte”. I became quite active in protecting sharks and founded a Not-for-Profit organization called “Sharkprotect e.V.” I give presentations in schools among other places. It is amazing how sharks have changed my life but I am very happy about it.

  18. mark Cavalier
    December 19, 2013

    with millions of sharks being killed every single month in the shark fining industry, help save the shark at; http://www.savingsharks.com

    December 19, 2013

    i love this type of images. i love wild & nature

  20. Aleksandra
    December 19, 2013

    mir gefehlt!!

  21. Michelle Danae White
    December 19, 2013

    One of Gods great creatures placed here with purpose

  22. Sissy Raikes
    December 19, 2013

    Brian I had the privilege of meeting you and dove with these beautiful sharks a day before you did. I hope your experience was as magical as mine. Everything has it’s place on this earth and should be respected so I applaud your work. Vin and Deb are just as respectable to these sharks as a first class dive operation and conservationist should be. I look forward to your next story about these beautiful fish:)

    December 19, 2013

    This is very dangerous, but the picture is more beautiful 😀

  24. Kraig
    December 18, 2013

    Sharks represent a healthy Eco-system. It’s everyone’s responsibility to protect it. Hopefully this will become a reality before it’s too late.

  25. Naomi
    December 18, 2013

    Maybe NG could educate the West Australian government.

  26. Mark Thorpe
    December 18, 2013

    Sadly mistaken by many these are some of the most enigmatic and potentially dangerous sharks on the planet. I have spent 20yrs documenting the marine environment for both commercial broadcast and personal goals. Tiger sharks need the utmost respect and protection.

    December 18, 2013

    excellent i like it.

  28. Diaabr
    December 18, 2013

    Such a shame so many humans just don’t understand the long term effects. Sharks are so beautiful and such a glorious species. What will our oceans become if we lose them?

  29. Jeremiah Sullivan
    December 18, 2013

    Flat out Spectacular Images Brian !

  30. Daniel
    December 18, 2013

    Outstanding, knowing that there is a few people out there (including myself) that don’t see sharks as predators. They don’t see humans as we see them. They see them as a helpless seal or a fish. We should be treating sharks as we treat other animals, they have kept the water we swim/fish in clean. Yes they are very dangeours but they struggle to see, they use vibration and smell to detect it food, that is why they can detect blood from 5 miles away. Us as humans should not be killing these animals as they have been around longer then us. If anything we are guest to them as they was on what we call ‘earth’ before us humans. We should respect the beautiful creatures.

    December 18, 2013


  32. Arnold Benitez
    December 18, 2013

    me gustan las fotos de estos Animales felicito ala persona que tomo esta fotos tienen un precio muy alto

  33. Tony
    December 18, 2013

    Wow! Amazing photo’s. You’d never catch me that close to one of those.

  34. Lissa Ware
    December 18, 2013

    Diving with sharks of all types is fascinating. The Northern Coral Sea hosts hammerheads, silver tips, bronze whalers, grey-tipped reef sharks, white-tipped sharks and whale sharks. When diving in sharks habitats, one can observe and learn their value amidst the ecosystem as predators, sifters, filterers and mulchers. We must protect and preserve the habitats and these sharks for the health of our oceans and our planet.

  35. lavkush pandey
    December 18, 2013

    Wish u luck..’now the time is that Man is behaving like wild Animals destroying the ecosystem’s balance and expect Animals to behave. Few good people like you should do whatever to retian this natural habitat safe for animals like sharks,tigers etc. We are here to support you.Well done Sir.

  36. ruth housman
    December 18, 2013

    Treasures from the deep. I have to believe, stories, that move people, about our oceans, our need to preserve and protect, will “surface” and that the light that penetrates that surface will bring us all to our sense, so we become true custodians for love and stop harming the denizens, of the deep, whose life, in deep ways, mirrors and reflects back and forth, what is us, in Sustainability and LOVE.

  37. Td
    December 18, 2013

    While I agree that sharks are beautiful and misunderstood creatures, the idea of using bait to attract them seems to be asking for trouble (and be borderline unethical), as it encourages the sharks to associate humans with food, and invites closer contact than would naturally happen.

  38. eleazar
    December 18, 2013

    Its really amazing how eexist this kinda animals in the earth I mean we need care about the planet ”not jus about the shark but really we need to doit ”

  39. Brittney
    December 18, 2013

    This is beautiful. It breaks my heart knowing people are stealing these beautiful animals fins just for a soup that that tastes like hot, plain jello. I like to do my part in preventing this by bringing awareness to shark finning. Hopefully I’ll be able to free dive with these beauties one day!

  40. Bassam
    December 18, 2013

    Great article. I only wish more shark ambassadors can spread the news that sharks are less aggressive than human. We are intruding into their space but we blame them for everything. I am a big fan of sharks and ready to support in any possible way

  41. Ana bell
    December 18, 2013

    acho lindo esse tipo de pesquisas,adoraria participar mas sei que não seria possível .mas meus parabéns pelo trabalho.

  42. martin alvarez correa
    December 18, 2013

    Estan hermosas

  43. Ashley P
    December 18, 2013

    What an amazing journey! How often will your shark stories be published in NatGeo specifically on sharks?

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