Changing Planet

Rapa Expedition: Human Impacts on Wild Sharks

The rocky islets of Marotiri are the most remote in French Polynesia—go straight south from here and the next thing you hit will be Antarctica. They are also one of the most beautiful—and certainly the most “sharky”—places I have ever been!

During this Pristine Seas expedition to collect data and images of the species present here, we have been joining large groups of Galapagos sharks and are often surrounded by forty or more individuals.

Swimming With Sharks
On each dive we see dozens of sharks, and to cruise through the open water with them is a feeling like no other. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

Even though this is an incredibly isolated place we are finding sharks with hooks in their mouths, which is an indicator of commercial fishing pressure. It simply reinforces the need to support the Rapan people’s desire to protect these waters. It’s painful for us to see these beautiful animals inhibited by works of man, and we are hoping on the next few dives to catch the affected sharks and remove the hooks.

Seeing a shark caught in a hook all the way out here is a reminder of the far-reaching impacts of human activity in the ocean. We hope to return with the proper tools to help these sharks, if weather permits additional dives here. (Photo by Manu San Felix)
Team member Jose Arribas watches the hooked shark, contemplating possible ways to help. (Photo by Manu San Felix)
Team member Jose Arribas watches the hooked shark, contemplating possible ways to help. (Photo by Manu San Felix)

With several animals to locate and help, unpredictable weather, and our limited manpower, there is no guarantee we’ll be able to do much for these creatures in the short term, but in the long term, full protection of the area could save many more animals than we could ever help individually.

For better and worse the impact we can have on even the remotest places should never be underestimated!

Between Two Worlds
With the sunlight crackling through the surface above, we are reminded that the sharks’ world is never far from our own, and that the things we do in ours have a real impact on theirs. (Photo by Manu San Felix)


Read All Posts From the Rapa 2014 Expedition

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The Pristine Seas expedition to Rapa is sponsored by Blancpain and Davidoff Cool Water.

Paul Rose is an ardent explorer, television presenter, journalist, author, and Vice President of the Royal Geographical Society, and an Expedition Leader on the Pristine Seas team.

    I hope you can go back and remove all those hooks and help those sharks to have a free life. True–“the things we do in ours have a real impact on theirs” — unfortunately the impacts don’t happen in reverse direction so that we can respect those poor creatures better.

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