A long time ago in the far, far reaches of the Gulf of Mexico...
The contrasting bars of the pilot fish create a striking image in the cobalt blue waters just beyond the continental shelf. Swimming in unison they dart, twist and turn in natural aquatic harmony.
Suddenly, from amongst the motion a strong form emerges.
Swimming with focus and purpose, the white bars on its fins reveal the ocean’s wanderer: the ocean whitetip shark.
It continues its trajectory at a slow but determined pace. Cruising just beneath the surface, it is set to prey on anything it might encounter.
Pickings can be slim in this desolate environment.
Once considered the world’s most common large animal (over 100 pounds) they are now deemed critically endangered. This is especially true for the Gulf of Mexico.
In a 2004 study, researchers Baum and Myers noted a 99 percent decline of oceanic whitetips in the Gulf since the 1950s.
“Scientists there once considered this species a nuisance because of the prevalence around vessels. Nowadays it is rarely seen,” they noted.
In hundreds of trips in the Gulf out of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi this writer has never seen one. And neither have dozens of veteran Gulf anglers I have interviewed.
And that concerns ocean art icon and conservationist Guy Harvey.