The state of Quintana Roo has gained fame for its incredible marine life: stingrays, colorful fish, peaceful whale sharks, starfish, barracudas and the list goes on. One animal you won’t see too often while snorkeling near the coast is the area’s sharks, but they’re out there! The state of Quintana Roo has bull sharks, whitetip reef sharks, blue sharks, bullhead sharks, blacknose sharks and nurse sharks. But don’t worry; Mexico’s Caribbean coast is nothing like the movie “Jaws”.
From May 1 through June 30, 2013, Quintana Roo state is implementing its very first closed hunting season for all shark species. The animals have not yet reached endangered status, although they are considered to be a threatened species. Authorities hope that this closed season will allow local sharks to recover from large amounts of shark hunting off the coasts of Quintana Roo, reaching an annual average of 250 tons.
The Isla Mujeres area has the highest amount of shark captures in the state, followed by the island of Holbox (in northern Quintana Roo) and the municipality of Lazaro Cardenas (in southern Quintana Roo), reaching a total of about 50 fishermen that hunt state sharks.
While many beachgoers in Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and beyond are unaware of the shark population in Quintana Roo, the region’s divers often encounter these creatures while out in the Caribbean waters. Many dive tours offer swimming with bull sharks, where divers are encouraged to respect the animal in its natural habitat while still being able to get up close by following strict rules. Off the coast of Isla Mujeres lies the Cave of the Sleeping Sharks, an intriguing natural phenomenon; sharks need to remain in constant motion in order to breathe, but the bubbles from underwater springs in this cave allow the nurse sharks to breathe while staying completely still.
Sharks are an important part of the underwater environment here in Quintana Roo and a fascinating attraction for divers, making this summer’s closed season a welcome idea among the local community.