Undoubtedly one of the most distinctive and recognizable sharks; The Great Hammerhead Shark - Sphyrna mokarran - Ever since I was a child these tremendous beasts have instilled a sense of awe in me and always hold the number 1 spot, as my favorite shark. Bimini in the Bahamas is one of the only places in the world you can reliably encounter and have an up close experience with these magnificent creatures.
"Great Hammerhead sharks can reach lengths of 15ft (4.6m) plus in length, with reports of 20ft (6m) specimens observed. It is thought that Great Hammerhead sharks may not reach sexual maturity until they are at least 8 ft (245cm) in length. It is estimated that these sharks could potentially live more than 30 years". - (Carrier, J. 2017 "Sharks of the Shallows").
Every year, depending on water temperatures the Great Hammerheads can appear in the shallower water around Bimini generally from December through till early April. The Bimini SHARKLAB, BBFS has been undertaking research on the Bimini Hammerheads for many years and have actually found that some or the Great Hammerheads coming to Bimini are pregnant.
"After fertilization, hammerhead shark embryos are attached to their mothers by a placenta, from which they obtain nutrients during embryonic development. Once they mature, they are born alive. The gestation (pregnancy) period for hammerhead sharks is thought to be between 10-12 months. Litter sizes may range from 20 to more than 30, and size at birth can be from 20 to 30 inches (50-80cm). Females may reproduce every other year or at longer intervals". - (Carrier, J. 2017 - "Sharks of the Shallows").
The team from the Bimini SHARKLAB discovered the pregnant hammerhead sharks by using an in water ultra sound kit. I was lucky enough to work as the underwater cameraman on this story that was featured on Discovery Sharkweek's, "Great Hammerhead Invasion", you can see the full episode by clicking and ordering here. If you are interested in getting involved in the research being done at the SHARKLAB, check out their Volunteer positions or Research Experiences.
If you are a scuba diver and would love to visit Bimini and have your very own Great Hammerhead Shark encounter I would recommend Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Center that supports Bahamians and local businesses on the Island. Great accommodation options can be found at the Bimini Sands Resort and Marina as well as the Big Game Club.
The video opposite shows PADI ambassadiver, Jillian Morris from Sharks4Kids diving with her favorite sharks, with the crew from Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Center.
A recent study spearheaded by Dr Edward Brooks, Ph.D., and led by research associate Andrea Haas of the Cape Eleuthera Institute, published in the journal Biological Conservation has found that sharks and rays contributed US $114 million to the Bahamian economy in 2014, with 99 percent of this value generated by the shark and ray tourism sector. This new research contributes to a growing recognition that as well as critical conservation value; shark conservation provides significant economic benefits.
So come and discover the Bimini Hammerheads yourselves and help conserve these amazing sharks for future generations to come.
If you want to learn more about the Great Hammerhead Shark and other species you may encounter on a trip to Bimini. Check out the new book, "Sharks of the Shallows", by Dr Jeffrey Carrier, with images by Andy Murch, Jillian Morris and myself. Plus check out Sharks4kids for fun engaging facts and activities about these apex predators.