Sharks in Puerto Vallarta
As far down as Zihuatanejo, you will find sharks in the waters but there simply are none in the vicinity of Puerto Vallarta. Climate change has warmed the waters south of us in places like Ixtapa, which attracts sharks due to the new temperatures and currents that are attractive to typical shark prey. There is a shark species known as the Whale Shark present in the Bay of Banderas of Puerto Vallarta but it’s the Whale Shark (Rhinodon typus) that has been sited here, and is completely harmless and eats nothing but plankton.
There are large groups of dolphins (called pods) in the waters of Puerto Vallarta but they don’t actually patrol the entrances of the bay, as has been mythically reported; maybe in a Disney movie but not locally. It’s possible that a pod of dolphins might chase a solitary shark away but they don’t get rid of them by butting them with their noses, nor are they killing them off either. The most likely explanation for a lack of sharks in the Bay of Banderas of Puerto Vallarta is their over-exploitation. In the 1930’s and 40’s sharks were hunted for their fins. Shark fin soup is still considered a delicacy but it’s not easy to find and we wouldn’t be proud to eat it, no matter how good it might taste. Twelve states and three US territories have banned the sale and possession of shark fins. There is no actual law to stop importing shark fins to Canada but the sale, trade, and distribution have been banned. Sadly for sharks but not for swimmers and surfers, the shark population in Puerto Vallarta has not yet recovered this oceanic plunder. In more recent decades, shark fin oil has been a popular nutritional supplement, which has not helped the cause of the endangerment of sharks on the Pacific coast either.
Shark sightings in Puerto Vallarta always turn out to be dolphins. People who are unfamiliar with both species can’t tell the difference between one dorsal fin and another. They only know what they’ve seen in movies and then panic ensues. It’s good to know that a shark fin is straight in the back where the dolphin dorsal fin has a graceful curve. One way to remember this is the sharp shark as opposed to the curvy dolphin.
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