Shark man free dives for conservation

Riley Elliott swimming with a blue shark at the Aldermen Islands, off the coast of Tairua.

New Zealand’s very own ‘Shark Man’ Riley Elliot has made international headlines with his shark free diving and work within Ocean Ecosystems.

ased in Tairua, Riley and partner Amber Jones are living their dream - surfing, diving and spear fishing while tagging and photographing blue sharks for a satellite program as a part of Elliot’s PhD in Marine Biology at the University of Auckland.

lliot, who studied dolphins for his Masters, has a ‘science for people’ approach to his research in the hope of changing people’s perception of sharks.

e also works to improve the health of the ocean.

is research, and the awareness that he’s created, resulted in the banning of the controversial practice of shark finning in New Zealand in 2014.

modern day ambassador, Riley is  truly passionate about Ocean Ecosystems, and takes fear to fascination to create awareness, telling Stuff that he’s “never  had a close call”.

e started with a fear like anyone else, but soon realised that the fear was unwarranted.

he media hype created by movies such as Jaws certainly doesn’t help.

sing his strong social media following, Riley has utilised his passion for adventure.

ombined with an extensive knowledge of marine biology, he is a champion for those with no voice.

iley walks the walk, risking himself while free diving near the Alderman Islands off Tairua in the Coromandel, which is a natural breeding ground for blue sharks.

n an interview with Stuff, Riley said: “I’ve spent my whole life learning how to free dive with sharks

I’ve learnt how to respect them as a wild animal, but also predict their behaviours to a point where I can co-exist with them. ”Free diving, where a diver holds their breath for an extended period of time, is more dangerous than swimming with sharks, says Riley.

t a large cost of $200,000, Riley’s research has taken some considerable funding.

ncreasing public engagement through social media has allowed the pair to gain funding through allowing people to sponsor a tagged shark.

he sponsor is then able to track the movements of their shark around its natural habitat.

iley and a group of university friends have set up a group called Sustainable Ocean Society, which allows people to get involved and learn with a vision to improve the health of New Zealand’s natural seafood resources and reduce ocean pollution.

ou can follow Riley’s journey via: www.

ileyelliott.

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