Cristina Zenato has been a professional diver for about 25 years. Zenato is a member of the Explorers Club; her expertise in sharks is particularly relevant for the Caribbean Coral Sharks of the Bahamas. She has a natural capacity to use her touch to lull these eight-and-a-half-foot predators into submission. She’s so good at it that she’s been able to remove stray hooks from sharks’ mouths that had been there for years. That’s why she’s dubbed the “Shark Whisperer” by some.
In the beautiful blue waters of the Bahamas, a diver is doing what most people avoid: approaching a wild shark and putting her arm into the shark’s mouth to remove attached hooks.
Zenato has been scuba diving for several years in the island nation off the Cuban coast and has always been fascinated by the ocean. After observing the sharks in distress, she informed 9news that she decided to rescue these sharks. Zenato claims that they actually began to seek her help.
The diver said ‘there is a degree of trust’ between her and the sharks as she works with the same animal populations.
In the video above, she tells the story of the first shark that came to her and how she knew it had a hook in its throat and became determined to remove it.
Zenato said: “One day she showed up with a hook on the side and as she was swimming by I grabbed it and it came out easily. Three days later she showed up with another. I couldn’t see the hook I could just see the lure coming out of her mouth. I started working with her and after a 30 minute dive I literally shoved my arm down her mouth up to the elbow and pulled this hook out. From that day on she always likes to be patted. She will come lean into me, come into my lap and allow me to pat her. It was really a 180 degree behavioural change.”
Although the diver wishes she could help all species, she mainly concentrates on the Caribbean reef shark.
She explained that the size of the larger species, such as tiger sharks and bull sharks, makes removing fish hooks nearly impossible. “They’re too big. Size really matters in this case,” she said.
“Research predicts that 6% of all fishing nets, 9% of all stores and 29% of all ropes are lost or discarded into our oceans every year,” Kelsey Richardson, a PhD student from CSIRO’s waste research group, who managed the study said.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states: “Rejected nets, wires and cables make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Strip. We found that bad weather, equipment stuck on the seabed, and equipment jamming with other types of equipment were the most common reasons for commercial fishing gear loss.”
Once in the ocean, tool gauge fish can take hundreds of years to fail. With the pollution of waste, this fishing gear can be one of the causes of accidental death for marine animals, especially large-sized seafood such as sharks.
Discarded fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic pollution as it leads to death for marine species from exhaustion or asphyxiation.