interview with Daniel Norwood
Shark Business is a new project, founded by underwater photographer Daniel Norwood and his partner Elena Salim Haubold, that plans to use the economic value of marine tourism to contribute towards shark conservation. The goals of their project are clear: to establish a responsible shark diving operation that contributes to scientific research and employs and educates local people about the value of sharks and their habitat.
How did you come up with the idea for Shark Business?
We first met in the Azores in 2014 while diving with blue sharks. I was on a photography assignment at the time while Elena was there to research the islands as part of her year as the 2014 European Rolex Scholar. After a few days of diving and numerous discussions about our future plans and goals, we realised we both wanted to do something tangible to help sharks.
We had individually seen how effective shark diving could be in changing attitudes to sharks and decided to combine forces and create our own ecotourism project, “Shark Business”.
Since then we have been travelling non stop in an effort to learn as much as possible about the current shark diving industry while looking for suitable destinations to set up our own project. This mission has taken us to some of the best shark dives in the world where we have been lucky to learn from the best in the business and encounter a variety of different sharks.
What camera gear did you use on the project?
During this time we both travelled with Nauticam camera systems in order to document the logistics of each particular location and capture still images and video for our future media work and our website. I shot mostly stills using my new Nikon D500 while Elena focused on filming with a Panasonic GX8 and a WWL.
What is your goal for the images you've collected over your travels?
Of course, investigating shark dives with two cameras has obvious benefits. In the past two years we have managed to film and photograph some of the most iconic shark species including great hammerheads, bull sharks, whale sharks, blue sharks and tiger sharks. The thousands of images and the video clips we collected along the way have been essential in helping us to design and produce a collection of infographics about sharks and shark tourism, and publish a comprehensive guidebook about our project. The aim of this guide is to explain clearly to stakeholders and investors why sharks are important and how ecotourism is one of the best ways to contribute to shark conservation. We are currently working on updating our website and will feature the entire guide and infographics there very soon.
As well as providing us with valuable material, underwater imaging also plays a vital role in shark conservation and the future of our project. The only real way to change the public perception of sharks as mindless killing machines is to show them otherwise, and images and video of sharks in their natural environment is the best way to do so. Sharing footage of safe and respectful shark interactions to non divers will slowly help to change their mind about sharks, or at least make them think about it, which is most definitely a step in the right direction.
What is the long term goal for Shark Business?
Providing new shark divers with photographs and video of their experience also creates future shark advocates when they return home and share their amazing experience with family and friends, helping to spread the word that maybe sharks aren't that bad after all!
Underwater cameras can also be used in a variety of ways to assist in the collection of scientific data. Images taken during dives help identify which sharks visit the area each day, allowing us to build a database of individuals and assess the population over time. Cameras fitted with lasers can provide measurements of the animal without the need to catch and release it, and baited remote underwater cameras (BRUVS) are also a very popular way to see what is happening underwater without the disturbance of divers.
As you can see, imaging is a very important part of our project. We have both used various Nauticam systems in the past five years and have been very happy with their ergonomics, build and performance. It is important for us to not have to worry about camera issues and just concentrate on the sharks and our Nauticam housings allow us to do just that!
About Daniel Norwood:
Daniel is an underwater photographer from the UK who's fascination with sharks encouraged him to find a way to contribute to their conservation. He is a regular contributor to popular scuba diving magazines and websites, and is known for his love of big animal photography, especially sharks. Having spent countless hours underwater with sharks in a variety of locations around the world, he has learned how to dive safely with a variety of different species and what it takes to set up and run a responsible shark tourism operation.
After meeting Elena in 2014, the two joined forces to find a suitable destination to establish Shark Business.
You can see Daniels work at: www.danielnorwoodphotography.com
About Elena Salim Haubold:
Elena’s interest in sharks led to her study the effects of coastal development on the spatial ecology of lemon sharks at the famous Bimini SharkLab in the Bahamas. Unfortunately, as the project developed and the sharks habitats were eventually destroyed, she began to look for alternative ways to contribute towards shark conservation. This is when she discovered shark ecotourism and all of its potential benefits. After careful consideration, the decision was made to leave behind scientific research and instead learn how to start a financially profitable shark diving project. To learn more about the tourism industry and business practices, she enrolled in an MBA in sustainable tourism at the European University of Munich, Germany. During this time she applied for, and won, the Rolex Scholarship from the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society. This program provided her the opportunity to travel the world to study her passion: Shark conservation through ecotourism. With each positive experience her beliefs were confirmed: When properly implemented, ecotourism is one of the most efficient tools to protect shark species and their habitats. Once her scholarship year was complete, Elena immediately went to work setting up her own project and months later Shark Business was born.
You can read all about Elena and her previous work on her blog.