Earlier this year, marine conservationist Ocean Ramsey of One Ocean Diving was diving off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu when the group came across one of the largest great white sharks ever caught on camera. The encounter can be seen in the 3.5-minute video above.
The team estimates that the shark was roughly 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. While the average female great white measures 15 to 16 feet, they can reach up to 20 feet (6.1m) and 4,200 pounds (1,900kg).
“Shark populations around Hawaii are unfortunately declining and there are currently no laws to protect sharks from being killed for any reason other than banning killing only for their fins and even that law has many loopholes and hasn’t been upheld,” the One Ocean Diving research team writes. “We study shark behavior and we teach people how to avoid adverse interactions.”
“This gentle giant swam up and brushed up against our boat repeatedly,” Ramsey says. “There is a theory that large females come here when they are possibly pregnant trailing whales. There was a dead sperm whale in the area and we did observe her from a distance swimming over to it and eating it on a regular basis throughout the day.
“I have so much respect for sharks for their ecological role, scientifically, culturally in Hawaii as aumakua, and from a conservation standpoint, I’ve dedicated my life to speaking up for them and educating others about them and their plight while studying to continue to understand more about them. We hope these images and videos will spark a movement for more laws to protect sharks here in Hawaii and around the world.”
Marine biologist and conservationist @OceanRamsey swimming with a really big #GreatWhiteShark in #Hawaii!
May this stunning photo by @juansharks1 inspires people and changes the perception they have about these magnificent animals that need our protection. #SaveTheOcean #Coexist pic.twitter.com/thKiV6u0hk
— Tiffany (@Capensys1) January 18, 2019
While the video of Ramsey swimming right up to the shark with her camera went viral online (and was featured by GoPro), it wasn’t without controversy. Other experts warned the public against trying a similar stunt.
“I can’t believe that ‘please don’t grab the 18-foot-long wild predator’ is something that needs to be explicitly said out loud, but here we are,” marine biologist David Shiffman tells the Washington Post.
“Promoting through social media that it’s safe and okay to swim with these animals is irresponsible,” Marine Conservation Science Institute founding director Michael Domeier tells the Post. “More than 99 percent of sharks are not dangerous. But that happens to be one that is very dangerous.
“If you want to talk about sharks being not dangerous, get your picture taken with a different species, not that one.”