Tiger sharks may be one of the deadliest predators in the ocean, yet divers at a unique spot in the Bahamas regularly feed the animals by hand, a practice that some assert is not as dangerous as it might at first appear.
Belgian underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, 44, recently captured images of the practice at Tiger Beach, according to the Daily Mail. The photo series depicts Debra Canabal, a shark diving specialist, as she feeds the tiger sharks by hand, a proposition that would terrify most casual divers.
“In these photographs you see a tiger shark coming to feed at the bait crate for the first time. The bait crate is used to establish a connection between divers and sharks,” Cuylaerts explained.
“In this case it was used to gain trust in order to remove hooks from their mouths, which had been put there by hunters.”
Over the course of eight hours, Cuylaerts was able to photograph the tiger sharks while 23 feet below the surface, observing as the dive instructors fed and interacted with them. Cuylaerts noted that watching the synergy between the sharks and Canabal filled her with a unique sense of pride.
“She’s a delicate 5 ft. tall, fragile looking mother-of-one, and she runs a shark diving operation with her husband Vincent Canabal.
“When I saw Debra handling the shark and gaining its trust, I, as a woman, felt proud.
“The shark diving world is still dominated by men, where lots of adrenaline and action can be found, but it does not have to be like this.
“More and more women are proving that peaceful encounters can be just as fulfilling.”
According to Cuylaerts, interacting with tiger sharks isn’t as daunting as it appears, and a diver’s safety hinges on how informed they are.
“If you enter the water with sharks you have to be aware that you enter their realm and you have to adapt,” she notes.
“Having an eye on all sharks at any time and knowing how to react when they come too close for comfort is the key!”
As the International Shark Attack File notes, tiger sharks are responsible for a large percentage of fatal attacks on human beings. Though solitary hunters, they possess the largest food spectrum of any species of shark, attacking and consuming a wide variety of prey.
Tiger beach isn’t the only place that divers interact with the sharks in a relatively safe manner. Despite the fact that the species had been responsible for a spate of recent attacks in the region, divers off the coast of Hawaii were filmed feeding tiger sharks by hand earlier this month, as the Inquisitr previously noted.
[Images: Ellen Cuylaerts via the Daily Mail]