Famed undersea explorer, Jacques Yves Cousteau, once proclaimed Oceanic Whitetip Sharks (Carcharhinus longimanus) as being, “the most dangerous of all sharks.” He also nicknamed this seemingly fearless shark, “the Long Hands” due to their notably elongated, white-tipped, rounded fins. Indeed, Oceanic whitetips modus operandi have earned them their grisly reputation of inflicting aggressive and unpredictable open-ocean attacks on beleaguered humans during air or sea disasters.
Unfortunately, like most shark populations, Oceanic whitetips were once widespread and abundant worldwide up until their exceptionally long hands became highly valued as the chief ingredient of and Asian delicacy shark fin soup. Additionally, a commercial fishing industry that takes more than 100 million shark species each year has in just a few decades decimated Oceanic whitetip numbers causing the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list them as Vulnerable globally and Critically Endangered in the northwest and western central Atlantic Ocean.
Ultimately, the long-term survival of Oceanic Whitetip sharks may depend upon organized recreational offshore sport diving or snorkeling offshore at places such as Cat Island, in the Bahamas. Seeing these truly magnificent sharks in their own domain changes perceptions. After having experienced an up close and personal open ocean encounter with these sharks, people come away with an entirely different point of view. They fall in love with these apex predators and their choirs of voices are demanding worldwide protection for these sharks. Above all, Oceanic whitetips belong in the ocean ecosystem circling the globe somewhere offshore with their long hands waving free, in that sharky realm where twilight turns from amethyst to deep and deeper blue.