Shark Tales

KRM Branch, 15th August 2022

Our guest speaker for the August meeting was Jasmine Lyons, who delivered a presentation entitled ‘Shark Tales’. As a member of the Underwater Explorers Club, Jasmine is an experienced SCUBA and Free diver who has dived at many locations both within WA and overseas.

Consequently, Jasmine has encountered sharks while diving on many occasions and in her presentation, Jasmine described some of the more memorable encounters supported by photographs. She said that there was a story for every encounter, which would be the basis for her talk.

The first encounter described was at Rottnest in 2006; she told us about seeing Grey Nurse sharks while diving off the Nurses’ Quarters at the end of Rottnest. While diving above a cave, her group saw around thirteen.

Grey Nurse sharks below them, roughly 2.5 – 3.0 metres long. They were not threatening at all and appeared to be just hanging around the top of the cave. It was an incredible experience.

Next was an encounter at Solevu, off Nadi in Fiji. Diving at the Big W dive site, her party saw many sharks, one of which was a Silky Shark. These can be aggressive, so Jasmine wasn’t going to take any risks, and she surfaced. Then came a bigger shock when they found the dive boat was not there; not a great experience when you knew there was a potentially aggressive shark in the waters below. It was due to miscommunication; the skipper thought they would meet at a different location. However, all turned out okay as they were eventually picked up. At City Beach in 2008, she encountered some Grey Nurse sharks. While observing them, her dive buddy signalled he was low on air. Due to his excitement, his rapid breathing emptied his tank!

The next memorable encounter was finding a Leopard Shark at Rowley Shoals. This endangered species can breathe while staying still by pumping water over its gills. Also, on this dive, she saw White Tipped Reef Sharks (common and chilled), Tawny Nurse Sharks (not many and docile) and Tiger Sharks. They thought it must be a hot spot for sharks until they returned to the boat and discovered that the crew had been filleting fish that they had caught and had thrown the carcasses overboard, forgetting there were divers in the water! On a dive at Christmas Island, her party encountered several Silky Sharks. These can become aggressive if they outnumber the divers and may bite.

In 2011 on a dive in Papua New Guinea, she saw White-tipped Reef Sharks, a large Black-tipped Reef Shark and a Bull Shark. At first, they didn’t realise it was a Bull Shark, but once they did, they paid close attention to it as they can be very aggressive and are responsible for many attacks on humans. At Exmouth and Ningaloo, she has encountered Grey Nurse and Tawny Nurse Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Whale Sharks. She explained that despite their size, it is often difficult to see the Whale Sharks until they are very close due to their colouration. She often sees Port Jackson Sharks, a small, non-aggressive species in local waters. She showed a photograph of a Wobbegong, around 3 m long. These are very well camouflaged and are vacuum feeders. You don’t want to get bitten by one as they cannot let go due to the vacuum. They are also very flexible; if grabbed by the tail, they can bend around to bite.

Jasmine finished her presentation by discussing Hammerhead Sharks at Point Peron. They can occur there in large numbers at times, but it is best to be in the water around sunrise to see them. Her presentation showed that not all sharks deserve the bad reputation of attacks by species like Great White and Bull Sharks. The audience thanked Jasmine for her interesting presentation.

Colin Prickett