Divers Aware of Sharks

The Red Sea is one of the most prized dive destinations worldwide. The fascination it receives by divers can be largely explained by the richness and the diversity of Sharks and Rays that inhabit the Red Sea reefs. However, it remains a region where little research has been undertaken to estimate the population status of key elasmobranch species and knowledge of movement/residency patterns and key aggregations sites is limited. This information is critical for the implementation of effective regional shark and ray management strategies to ensure that the species observed today will also be seen by our future generations.

Divers, often with their underwater cameras, regularly observe these incredible animals in their natural environment. If properly documented, these observations can be translated into hard data for science and thus aid the protection and sustainable management of Shark and Ray populations.
The Cousteau Shark and Ray Management and Conservation program must be undertaken in collaboration with these important observers, who collectively are able to assimilate the vast amounts of required data. Accordingly, Equipe Cousteau is pursuing the development of a Shark and Ray monitoring program in collaboration with the Recreational Dive industry; the ‘Diver Aware of Sharks’ program.
With this pilot study in the Red Sea, Equipe Cousteau launches a first program to monitor, manage and conserve Sharks and Rays in the region.

Our objectives

To establish baseline data on the abundance of Red Sea Shark and Ray species.
To identify movement and residency patterns of key Shark and Ray species along coastal and offshore reefs of the Red Sea.
To translate scientific findings into regional conservation and management actions.

Divers role

Divers are essential participants in the Divers Aware of Sharks research program. Their involvement enables daily monitoring of sharks and rays at key sites throughout the Red Sea region. Data collected on a regular basis is required to estimate species composition, abundance and variations in composition/abundance on any given reef over time. Throughout the diving season, organized diver reporting of sharks and rays observations include data on the species present, the numbers observed, and the depth/temperature of sightings during each dive. Photographic and video material is also archived to assist in identifying individual animals through mark or scar patterns and will aid in determining population structure.

Divers Aware of Sharks network

The Divers Aware of Sharks program was launched in Sudan in November 2007 during an Equipe Cousteau Integrated Coastal Zone Management survey (Oct-Nov 2007). The Divers Aware of Sharks program was initiated by marine biologists (Nigel Hussey from the University of Bangor, Wales in UK and Steven Kessel of the Bimini Biological Field Station in Bahamas) working with Equipe Cousteau in conjunction with recreational dive operators in Sudan.

It is now critical to geographically expand our Divers Aware of Sharks network in order to generate regional baseline data for the Red Sea region. Dive operators in Saudi Arabia have recently joined our network and a meeting with dive operators is currently being organised in Egypt to launch the program there.

Meeting with Scalloped Hammerhead sharks

This video (non professional) shows the Cousteau's shark team during a dive with scalloped hammerhead sharks at Sha'ab Rumi in the Red Sea (Sudan) during an expedition in October 2007.