Key Largo Reefs: Sharks Anyone?
Over the decades, the reefs of Key Largo have always been abundant with marine life of many species. Sharks included, particularly the common Nurse Shark, a common sight on any reef during any season. Occasionally, scuba divers would come across a Hammerhead, Bull or Reef Shark. But over the last decade or so, the Caribbean Reef Shark has become a much more common resident of the Florida Keys reefs.
Caribbean Reef Sharks – Making their home on the Key Largo Reefs
The Reef Shark is indeed the most common shark on or near to the reef in the Caribbean in general. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but about 8-10 years ago, we started seeing this shark more frequently on opur dive sites in Key Largo. After dives, we noticed our Scuba divers frequently talking about the Caribbean Reef Shark, sometimes spotting them in groups of 2 or even up to 6 or more on one dive! A great development for many reasons as it turns out, which is talked about later in this blog, and it was an especially cool thing for our scuba divers!
According to Wikipedia, “The Caribbean reef shark (Carcharhinus perezii) is a species of requiem shark, belonging to the family Carcharhinidae. It is found in the tropical waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, and is the most commonly encountered reef shark in the Caribbean Sea. With a robust, streamlined body typical of the requiem sharks, this species is difficult to tell apart from other large members of its family such as the dusky shark (C. obscurus) and the silky shark.”
Although Caribbean Reef Sharks are known to exhibit aggressive and territorial behavior, they are rarely if ever known to attack humans. In our experience, Reef Sharks can seem curious towards divers when they first enter the water and may even approach and swim quite closely to a scuba diver. Generally however, it seems that they eventually loose interest on repeat dives. They can become more dangerous when being fed, which is illegal in Florida waters, but common in many other dive sites around the Caribbean.
A Great Beauty – And a Positive Sign for Coral Reefs
Sometimes it’s easy to take things for granted when they become more common. This is true for the Caribbean Reef Shark, as they are generally common now on our reefs here in Key Largo. And yet they are truly one of the more beautiful sharks in the Atlantic, as you can see from Photographer Andrew Jalbert’s photographs here, (all taken on a Key Largo reef). Scuba diving with these beautiful & majestic creatures is a thrill and leads one to appreciate their presence. The increase in their numbers on Florida Keys reefs is also considered a positive thing for the coral reef ecosystem, as it generally indicates a healthy abundance & diversity of marine life. As many scuba divers already know, Key Largo reefs are known for their abundance of fish!
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Caribbean reef shark is “Near Threatened”, as it’s population has declined particularly off Belize and Cuba from overfishing, and exploitation continues in other regions also. They are also threatened by the degradation and destruction of their coral reef habitat. Overfishing is not happening in the Florida Keys, as the Caribbean Reef Shark is “prohibited from harvest” in all Florida State waters. This is a great thing for the health of the reef system in general, as the Reef Shark is a critical part of the food chain. Our scuba divers certainly enjoy seeing these beautiful creatures.
We can’t guarantee seeing one of these beautiful creatures on any one dive trip in the Florida Keys, but we can say that there’s a pretty darn good chance of seeing one (or many) over the course of a couple/few days of diving Key Largo dive sites. Call today and book your dive charter to find out for yourself!
A Special thanks to Professional Photographer Andrew Jalbert for the use of these amazingly beautiful Caribbean Reef Shark photographs for this article. We’re proud to say Andy has been diving Key Largo with Sea Dwellers Dive Center for over 2 decades now, and we’re constantly amazed by his work! We’re also very thankful for his generosity in the use of these photographs for our articles and blogs. To view more of his work, check out his web site Jalbert Productions.
– Your Sea Dweller Staff | May 2018