The Future Of Shark Conservation – Our Kids

Jillian with the future marine biologist after their shark dive (Photo credit: Duncan Brake)

I created Sharks4Kids because I believe that kids can make a difference and save sharks! Our main goal is to create the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure. The adventure element focuses on getting kids outside, in the ocean and able to see sharks, if possible. I spend a lot of time in the water with sharks, but sharing this experience with friends and family really takes it to a new level. We had some close friends visit the island recently and had some very special shark moments with them.

Freediving with Caribbean reef sharks is amazing and something I will never grow tired of. Often times people scoff because they are not tigers or great whites, but they are still a big beautiful shark and in my opinion, seeing any shark in the wild is a special moment. 100 million are being killed globally each year, so these encounters should be cherished.

Shark Girls on a Caribbean reef shark dive (Photo credit: Duncan Brake)

Our friends have 2 daughters, age 9 and 13 and they had been asking and asking about seeing sharks. They had done a tour at the world famous Bimini Biological Field Station, but wanted a chance to freedive with some bigger animals. Their parents are amazing freedivers and it has rubbed off on the girls with Gabriela (age 13) reaching 35 feet easily. We headed to the site and the sharks appeared as soon as we anchored up. After a safety briefing about entering the water, protocol during the dive and exciting, we geared up and slipped in. We used a line to keep us next to the boat and watched as the sharks cruised around us. The girls were elated and I could see their masks shifting upward from the giant smiles on their faces. Even mom and dad, were amazed at how beautiful and calm the animals were.

We spent about 45 minutes watching 10 reef sharks and I was thrilled to see the girls not wanting get out of the water. I don’t blame them; I could spend the entire day watching sharks swim. We had a great chat post dive and they had lots of questions about the sharks and I am pretty sure we have a future marine biologist in the making.

On another adventure with a different friend and her son, age 13, we headed to a very popular stingray encounter. People have been feeding the stingrays for decades, so they are well conditioned to come in for a friendly visit. Stingrays, like sharks, often get a bad reputation because of their spine, but in reality it is very easy to safely snorkel and interact with these “flat sharks.” We even had a couple of curious nurse sharks come in to see what we were up to, so lots of elasmobranch excitement.

I am not advocating to just throw your kids in the water with sharks or flat sharks, but I am advocating for kids to explore the ocean. There are safe and reputable operators you can join for a snorkel or a dive. Seacamp in the Florida Keys offers a shark course during their summer programs, NOVA Southeastern and University of Miami offer family friendly shark tagging trips and Sharks4Kids offers family friendly shark snorkels in Fort Lauderdale with Force-E divers. I saw my first shark when I was 9 while snorkeling in Florida and I will never forget that moment. It is definitely one of the reasons I am doing what I do today.

We still have a lot to learn about sharks, but one thing we do know is that they are not mindless man-eaters! If you have the chance to share the ocean with your kids, whether it is exploring tide pools or scuba diving, do it! It will change their view of the world and it might just change yours too!

Shark boy diving with Caribbean reef sharks (Photo Credit: Duncan Brake)