Long-distance shark dive: success and failure

Posted: 09/26/2011 in all marine news

Emily Sohn – 

Sometimes, life’s biggest lessons come not when everything goes as planned but when everything goes wrong.

Early Saturday morning, as Discovery News reported last week, undersea explorer Scott Cassell set off as planned from Catalina Island with two goals. One was to set a long-distance SCUBA-diving record by traveling 30 miles underwater without surfacing.

At the same time, he used an acoustic device to attract sharks — hoping to both draw attention to the endangered animals and get a sense of how many of them still live in the area.

The day did not go exactly as planned. After about five hours in the water, Cassell experienced a major problem with his equipment and nearly drowned. To avoid death, he came briefly to the surface before going back under again. Battling hypothermia and extreme dehydration, he finished the journey in about 11 hours.

The other surprise involved the sharks. Despite diving through a notorious great white shark zone, Cassell didn’t see a single shark all day. About 20 years ago, Cassell has reported, he often saw as many as 100 sharks during a dive in the area.

According to a press release put out by Cassell’s team, advancements in fishing technology and a major rise in demand for shark fin soup has led to a nearly 90-percent drop in the shark population over the last two decades. In the Catalina Channel, about 97 percent of blue sharks have been killed over the same period of time. And around the world, people kill three sharks every second.

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