Get to know PADI Ambassadiver Gerardo del Villar
Born and raised in Mexico City, Gerardo del Villar is a marine wildlife photographer, filmmaker, and PADI IDC Staff Instructor dedicated to educating the public about the need to protect our planet’s sharks. Villar has worked on assignment for Discovery Channel, led shark expeditions and produced educational shark documentaries such as 450 Millones de Años and Tiburones de México — he has shared the latter documentary with more than 10,000 schoolchildren to date. He hopes to continue to demystify sharks and ensure that more people around the world understand the importance of their conservation.
Q: When did you start diving? GV: I took the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Course 25 years ago in Cancun.
Q: Where do you typically go diving with sharks, and what is it like to dive with them? GV: Year after year I travel to Isla de Guadalupe in Mexico to photograph great white sharks. I have also visited Playa del Carmen, the Sea of Cortez, Isla Mujeres, the Bahamas and the United States to see various types of sharks. Every year I look for a new place to photograph them. For me, being with sharks is relaxing; it makes me feel peace and tranquility.
Q: You are very active in shark conservation. What is your message to people about sharks? GV: Sharks need you. They have been on Earth for more than 450 million years and have survived five massive extinctions. Unfortunately, the human race is taking every species of shark to the border of extinction. Humans kill more than 80 million sharks every single year, and if this continues, sharks will soon disappear from our oceans. Sharks also are not the unintelligent killers people believe them to be. In reality, sharks are top predators that are essential for their role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. They help regulate other marine-animal populations, including fish, mollusks and crustaceans, and also eat dead fish and marine mammals — they help clean the ocean and stop the spread of epidemics.
Q: Describe your favorite or most memorable moment diving. GV: We were changing a scientific receptor in Guadalupe Island, Mexico, and three great white sharks came around us. There was no chumming of the water, and we saw them in their natural state.
Q: You capture incredible images of the sharks you encounter. Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to get into underwater photography?
GV: First, become a better diver in order to feel more comfortable underwater. Second, learn how to photograph out of the water, learn how your camera operates and the basics of photography. Study and learn how to take pictures in low-light conditions and how to capture fast-moving objects. Once you have this covered, apply it underwater. Finally, learn all you can about the thing you want to photograph — the more you study it, the greater the possibility of capturing great photographs.
Q: What are some ways we can get involved in protecting sharks? GV: Learn about the sharks that are in danger of extinction. Investigate the measures your country has put in place for shark protection. Do not consume shark-fin soup or products that derive from shark organs. Understand that they are essential in maintaining the balance in marine ecosystems, and help people change the perception they have about this predator. Do not collect or buy shark souvenirs such as jaws, teeth or necklaces. Promote their care with family, friends and through social media.
“For me, being with sharks is relaxing; it makes me feel peace and tranquility.”