Tiger Shark encounters on the Ningaloo Reef have very quickly become one of my favourite parts of any day out on the water.
Their name comes from the dark vertical ‘tiger’ like stripes that run down their sides. As juveniles their markings are much clearer (see photo of a juvenile below), and as they get older these begin to fade and almost disappear for some.
These beautiful apex predators can reach up to 5.5m in length and have excellent sight and smell making them the perfect scavengers of the ocean. They have sharp, serrated teeth that allow them to break through hard turtle shells and clams. Their diet is varied including stingrays, sea snakes, seals, birds and squid.
Their populations are found in tropical and sub-tropical oceans throughout the world, just like here on the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. They have also been found in more temperate waters and are known to migrate from areas such as Broome in WA, right down to the cooler waters of the Southern Ocean for feeding during whale season.
Unfortunately like many of our marine animals today, the populations of these sharks are under great threat due to human activity, from recreational fishing, commercial shark finning through to the inhumane methods of Drumlining.
Tigers live to an age of around 50 years and reproduce much slower than other shark species. This becomes a huge problem when we see how populations are declining due to these factors above.
Without these apex predators in our oceans, the ecosystems in these regions will become ‘unbalanced’. Removal of Tiger Sharks would lead to over populations of smaller reef sharks which in turn would lead to widespread removal of small fish populations. The affects this would have on these ecosystems would be devastating.
Recent studies suggest Tiger Sharks should now be listed as ‘endangered’ in Australian waters after it has been suggested that their numbers have declined by 71% in only three decades.
The Queensland Shark Control Program (SCP) catches and kills marine wildlife throughout the state. This includes the Great Barrier Reef which is quickly becoming an unbalanced ecosystem. Since 2001 the SCP has killed over 10,000 animals, 2500 of which were Tiger sharks.
Time for change? What do you think?
The positive here is that there are now many conservation companies around the world promoting and educating people about the loss of Tiger Sharks, and of course the importance of their presence in our oceans.
Protect What You Love (www.protectwhatyoulove.com.au) is a great example of this based right here in the heart of the Ningaloo Reef. Go and check out their website for more!
Set up used:
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Sigma AF 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye, Aquatica A5D MKIV Housing, 8” Acrylic Dome
Camera settings used:
15mm, f/6.3, ISO125, 1/250”