>Years Diving: 20
>Favorite Dive Destination: Guadalupe Island, Mexico
>Why I'm a DAN® Member: The support, information and safety resources DAN provides are unique. I work in isolated locations, and my DAN insurance gives me the tranquility of knowing that help is only a phone call away.
>Hoyos first studied blacktip sharks off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula and then moved on to study numerous shark species in the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific. He is a founding member of MigraMar, a nonprofit organization with a network of marine scientists who conduct research to safeguard healthy populations of marine migratory species in the Eastern Pacific. He currently is director general of Pelagios Kakunjá, a nonprofit research organization that mentors young marine biologists, and spends his workdays collecting vital data on the sharks and rays of the Eastern Pacific, especially the great white sharks of Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Almost anyone doing shark research in this part of the world is likely to cross paths with Hoyos.
>After a 24-hour boat ride southwest from Cabo San Lucas, we arrived at San Benedicto Island. I trailed Hoyos on 21 dives around three islands as he patrolled the underwater topography looking for migratory sharks to tag with acoustic tracking devices. While Hoyos conducted fieldwork, a team from Occupied VR filmed footage for a Sharkwater virtual-reality movie in honor of Stewart.
>On our second day of diving, we were in the water before sunrise at a site named The Boiler. A juvenile whale shark greeted us in the dim light before numerous giant pacific manta rays with 15-foot wingspans arrived. Hoyos took tissue samples for analysis, while we took photographs of the manta rays for an online database. Researchers use this catalog of photos to identify and differentiate mantas by the distinct markings on their undersides, enabling researchers to estimate the number of unique individuals in the local population and determine which mantas are just passing through.
>Scientists estimate that fishermen kill 70 million to 100 million sharks per year, in large part for shark-fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The future for sharks might seem grim, but people like Hoyos are working to change that. His research has paved the way for a larger marine protected area (MPA) at Revillagigedos. By tagging and tracking sharks in the area, he showed that they hunted, fed and mated at Roca Partida but returned to San Benedicto Island to birth and raise their pups.
>It's ironic that the film that inspired mainstream loathing of sharks is the same one that inspired Hoyos to save them. Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws (the book that inspired the movie), never intended for his story to instigate the "spasm of senseless, macho shark killing" that it did. He spent most of his life advocating for protection of sharks and healthy marine ecosystems after the release of the movie. Benchley would have been proud to see Hoyos studying sharks and using research to defend them and their habitats.
>See Mauricio Hoyos in action in this video.
>© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2019