Carcharhinus longimanus return annually to the waters around Cat Island in the Bahamas. I went to take a closer look at this once-abundant top predator
My face is pressed up against the window and my brow is furrowed. For someone about to land in the Bahamas I look surprisingly troubled. I am trying to figure out the size of the swell and the prevailing wind direction from 10,000ft up in the air. For the last week I have been obsessively refreshing the forecast page for Cat Island, hoping that a small weather window will appear.
I'm here to dive with the oceanic whitetip shark – Carcharhinus longimanus, the migratory circumtropical pelagic apex predator. Historically, the oceanic was a highly abundant species, but more recently it has undergone severe population declines. Globally across its range, it is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list as vulnerable, and critically endangered in the north-west and western central Atlantic. This reduction in numbers is a result of fishing pressures, most likely related to the global shark fin trade, for which it is targeted and highly prized due to its large pectoral fins, from which the shark gets its name: "longimanus", meaning "long hands".