De­mys­ti­fy­ing Sharks

Get to know PADI Am­bas­sadiver Ger­ardo del Vil­lar

Sport Diver - - Dive Briefs - BY EMILY KRAK

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.”

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