About Me

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I am a Shark and Big Animal Photographer and the Founder of Big Fish Expeditions. I also pilot research submersibles on rare occasions but primarily I photograph sharks and rays. The shark images that I take have been used in many commercial publications but most importantly I try to concentrate on shooting rare and endangered species of sharks for conservation initiatives. It is a labour of love.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Swarms of Whale Sharks and Predators in Peril

Its been an insanely busy summer. There were lots of great moments but the highlight was probably the incredible whale shark aggregations that we encountered near Isla Mujeres in Mexico. As I said in one of my Facebook posts, there were so many whale sharks that I felt sorry for the plankton. To read this year's trip report and to enjoy a short video from the expedition please follow this link: Whale Shark Trip Report 2012

Big Fish Expeditions has some awesome new trips penciled in for 2013 and 2014 but before I launch into that, I'd like to share some news about the Predators in Peril Project. I recently traveled to Guerrero Negro on the west coast of Baja to document the gill net fishery and in particular the amount of shark and ray bycatch that is caught in the halibut fishery. This trip resulted in some very graphic images that hopefully capture the essence of the problem.
It was a tough expedition for me personally because I was exposed to some tragic scenes but at least I had the opportunity shoot a video about the expedition. The video is called BYCATCH. It has some very disturbing footage but I believe that it is important to show everything that I witnessed in order to shine a light on this issue. You can see more images from the trip and watch the video at PIP's new home: predatorsinperil.org To jump straight to the video please visit:Predators in Peril Videos
Please, please share BYCATCH on your social networks!

Next stop for PIP is Chile. In November I am heading to the wild west coast of South America to try to document the endemic shark population. Some Chilean species such as the speckled smoothhound shark are already listed by the IUCN as near threatened but the shark fishery continues to decrease their numbers further. Hopefully (if I actually get some images) we will be able to generate some interest from Chilean conservation groups that want to help reduce the fishery.

Ok, onto upcoming Big Fish Expeditions:

In 2014 we're going to Norway to dive with hunting orcas. I knew this trip was going to be popular but I didn't realize how popular! The same day that I loaded the orca free diving trip onto the Big Fish Expeditions website, it sold out. Consequently, I'm wondering if I should run two trips back to back because I certainly wouldn't mind an extra week chasing killer whales. So if you are interested in a freezing cold adventure in the middle of winter to northern Norway to chase orcas and night dive on pristine sponge and coral reefs in Norway's rugged fiords, please let me know as soon as possible and I'll work on a second boat.

But before then, we have a lot of other amazing encounters to enjoy...
SAILFISH BAITBALL DIVING sold out months ago but a couple of guests just informed me that they can't go so there are two spots open. This is a great opportunity to jump in with huge aggregations of hunting sailfish attacking baitballs. It'll be intense and exhausting free diving probably in bumpy seas but if you want an adventure don't miss this! Oh, and if we get any storm days we'll be heading down to Playa del Carmen to dive with bull sharks!

There are also a few spots left on the SOCORRO GIANT MANTA EXPEDITION. This is a world class dive destination 200 nautical miles south of Baja that attracts some of the friendliest and largest mantas in the world, plus lots of sharks and curious pods of wild dolphins. It is an especially good place to find black mantas like the one pictured here:

Then, by popular request, I am running another TIGER SHARK PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP at world famous Tiger Beach in the Bahamas next October. If you haven't dove Tiger Beach yet, it is probably the best place in the world to learn the ins and outs of shark photography. Tiger sharks, lemons, reef sharks, nurse sharks (and occasionally other shark species such as great hammers) create the perfect subjects to practice different techniques. Apart from obviously photographing tiger sharks, one of my favorite techniques is shooting over/unders of lemon sharks at sunset from the swim step:

There are also just two spots left on my Cat Island Oceanic Whitetip Shark trip. This year was amazing with more oceanic whitetips than anyone expected. Next year is the last chance to join me at Cat Island because I need to make room for some new adventures in 2014 so I hope that you can make it!

Then in July its Scottish Basking Sharks time! The first week is full but I have 4 spots left on the second trip. I talked to the captain recently and he told me that this year they had basking sharks everyday of the season except two. That is an amazing success record! Nowhere else has such reliable sightings so I am very excited for next year.

And then.... it just keeps getting better but I'll save some announcements for the next newsletter. If you made it this far, thanks for reading :)

See you down there,
Andy Murch
Andy Murch

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The SECOND Biggest Fish in the Sea

Its been an awesome year so far but before I talk about the action on the last few trips, lets talk about the second biggest fish in the sea:

Next June/July I have organized a very unique adventure. Join me on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland to dive with feeding basking sharks. Although there are other locations like Cornwall and the Isle of Man that get sporadic sightings, nowhere is as reliable as the seas around the Isle of Mull. As well as the frequency of encounters, the visibility this far north is far superior as well, making this the ideal location for serious shark hunters.
We will also dive with friendly grey seals, photograph any whales and dolphins that we see and generally soak up the atmosphere of the Inner Hebredes in a fun filled week on the water.
At night we'll either be staying in a stone cottage in the quaint village of Tobermory or camping on the outer islands right where the sharks are. To me, this sounds like an awesome adventure. Apparently I'm not alone because the first trip sold out the day I posted it on Big Fish Expeditions. The second week has four spots open so jump in while you can! Check out the images, info and an awesome video by Film Maker Simon Spear about the amazing wildlife around the Isle of Mull: Basking Shark Expedition

diving with basking sharks

Building on the success of seeing smalltooth sandtigers at Malpelo, our next adventure was in Rugged Socorro which is 200 miles south of the tip of Baja. The manta action at the islands was off the hook. We encountered giant mantas on virtually every dive but unlike many other places around the world, the mantas at Socorro actually crave the company of divers. Many times, a manta would find us and hang out for the entire dive playing in our bubbles. It was a fantastic experience for everyone that went. Read more in the Socorro trip report.

After Socorro I led back-to-back trips to Tiger Beach and Cat Island. Of course Tiger Beach was non-stop shark action everyday but Cat Island far exceeded my expectations. Stuart Cove bought one of his boats over to the island especially for this trip and although the persistent wind made the surface a bit bumpy, we simply submerged into the tranquility of the underworld surrounded by oceanic whitetip sharks on every dive. On our first (and best) day we had 12 big oceanics surrounding our small group of divers! There are some great pics from the trip in the Cat Island Oceanic Expedition Trip Report. I've booked back to back dates again next year and not surprisingly the boats are already half full.

diving with oceanic whitetip sharks

Next up on the Big Fish Calendar is whale sharks at Isla Mujeres in July. This should be a lot of fun. The world's biggest fishes aggregate off of Isla Mujeres each July to feed and we'll be there to play with them! There are two spots left on the second trip. If you've never dove with a whale shark don't miss this opportunity:Whale Shark Expedition

whale shark trips

Less than a week after returning from Whale Sharks at Isla Mujeres, its time for Sharkfest. As I write this there is one spot left on the trip which I'm sure will be gone in no time. Sharkfest is a fun filled weekend with three days of diving with Sandtiger Sharks, a night where we screen the best recent shark films and a cook out on the last night. This is the third annual Sharkfest and although its a bit of a monster to organize, I don't think I can break tradition now. So, if you can't come this year then please pencil it into your calendar for next August: SHARKFEST

Then its time for my last guest trip of the season. This will be my second year in the Sea of Cortez diving with whales, sea lions, humboldt squid and sharks. By far the most diverse trip on the Big Fish Itinerary, if you're looking for an adventure with lots of diving plus marine mammal encounters, you can't go wrong in theSea of Cortez

sea of cortez diving

This fall, I have purposely avoided scheduling any Big Fish Expeditions. I love running guest trips but there is work to be done. I am planning two trips to Mexico to work with researchers and fishermen to try to document more of the endemic shark species that divers do not normally get the chance to encounter. In particular, there are a number of smoothhound shark species that need some time in the spotlight. Hopefully, by the end of the year I should have at least one or two documented but I'm hoping for more. If you've never seen a smoothhound shark, this image shows a Gulf of Mexico Smoothhound; an animal that lives in deep water in a tiny pocket of ocean in the northern Gulf and is therefore extremely vulnerable to depletion.

gulf smoothhound

While I'm on the subject of Predators in Peril, you may remember that last year I had the opportunity to photograph deep sea gulper sharks with Edd Brooks from Cape Eluethera Institute. Since then Edd has moved into the next phase of the project which involves monitoring activity and species composition on the actual sea floor rather than bringing sharks up to the surface. Here is a link to a video about his recent work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4ecOlFVoSE&feature=share

Next year's schedule is getting ridiculously busy already. In January we'll be in Mexico for the sailfish migration. Divers can see up to 40 or 50 sailfish attacking enormous bait balls; a spectacular sight! (Just three spots left).

diving with sailfish

Then in February, we're heading to French Polynesia on a shark safari of epic proportions. First stop will be Moorea to dive with sicklefin lemon sharks. Then we are heading to Fakarava 'where it rains sharks' to dive with 5 species including hundreds and hundreds of grey reef sharks. In my entire shark diving career I have never seen this many sharks in one place. Join me in paradise for an amazing shark filled adventure: French Polynesia Shark Safari

tahiti diving

Then a brand new experimental trip. In late Feb, Great Hammerheads congregate in an area near the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. Great hammerheads are usually extremely difficult to see (as many frustrated photographers will tell you). But, in this one small area, Great hammers have been reliably documented by the shark researchers that are based on Bimini. This year, Stuart Cove took his boat over to to try to chum up the sharks and he was extremely successful. At one point he had a 4 or 5 great hammers around the bait. That is the best encounter I have ever heard of so I have asked Stuart to bring his boat back next year to try to repeat the excitement. If you're an experienced diver and you've been waiting for the chance to add a great hammerhead to your life list, this is the trip:Great Hammerhead Expedition

Beyond the hammer trip we're taking another shot at the mantas in Socorro and then its time for Tiger Beach, Cat Island, Scotland and South Africa. To see our entire Big Fish Expeditions Schedule for next year. Please follow this link:

See you out there!
For the oceans,
Andy Murch
Andy Murch

Saturday, January 14, 2012



I am lucky enough to live on Vancouver Island in western Canada. Believe it or not, the island is warm. We get a little snow some years (not this year) but so does Texas. Its a great place to live and play.
The Salish Sea which separates the island from the mainland is considered 'temperate' but virtually everyone that dives here picks up a drysuit sooner or later. A wimp like me wouldn't be caught dead diving wet in our local waters.
A lot of divers that I meet in the tropics tell me that they'd love to see a giant pacific octopus or dive with a tumbling gang of adolescent steller sea lions but they just don't relish diving in the restrictions of a drysuit.

dive with steller sea lions
Adolescent Steller Sea Lions off Vancouver Island

I get it. Diving is about freedom as much as it is about seeing the wonders of the ocean. Its about that feeling of underwater flight. No restrictions. No boundries. Traditional inflexible drysuits took away that freedom and left divers feeling clumsy and confined. And then, Whites Manufacturing changed everything by designing the Fusion - a stretchy , form fitting drysuit that feels like you're diving in a wetsuit. My fusion has made such a profound difference to my cold water diving that I've started looking at the world's 'non-tropical' diving destinations very differently.
Recently, I was sitting in Whites office raving like a lunatic about my Fusion and talking about all of the places I'd like to dive in it. Instead of slapping a restraining order on me, Whites Brand  Manager Justin Balaski suggested that Whites and Big Fish Expeditions team up to create a series of Polar Seas Expeditions to the world's most amazing cold water destinations. Sometimes the focus would be on big animals and sometimes it would be on diving the world's best cold water wrecks and reefs (wrecks tend to stay better preserved in colder water).
We would promote the trips together. I would lead them and White's would send me off with some extra Fusions for anyone that wanted to find out how comfortable it is diving in one. I jumped at the idea and started looking for destinations worthy of both companies.
Combining the best of Big Wrecks and Big Animals, our first Polar Seas Expedition will be in July of this year to Newfoundland, Eastern Canada. The Bell Island Wrecks consist of four 400ft long merchant ships that were sunk by U-boats in 1942. Think of Bell Island as Truuk Lagoon with Icebergs!
For the hardcore big animal divers, on the days that we are not diving on Bell Island's world class wrecks, we will have the opportunity to jump in with friendly humpback whales that cruise up and down the coast of Newfoundland during their summer migration. It'll be epic. Join me if you can. Click on the pic for more info:

Yep, we're heading to South Africa to shoot sharks. 14 different species if all goes to plan: great white sharks (breaching and underwater), mako sharks, tiger sharks, Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks, Ragged Tooth Sharks, Blue Sharks, Blacktip Sharks, Broadnose Sevengill Sharks, Spotted Gully Sharks, Puffadder Cat Sharks, Dark Shy Sharks, Pajama Sharks and Leopard Cat Sharks. That pretty much sums it up except to say that we'll likely see lots of other stuff too like Cape fur seals, lots of pelagics, African penguins and a whole bunch of land based critters like lions and cheatahs because the trip also includes a big game drive. Click on the Pic for more info:

The 2012 expedition season is about to kick off at Isla Malpelo which is famous for its wild pelagic shark action. I couldn't be more excited as (like most divers) I have never seen a smalltooth sandtiger shark and there's a very good chance we see some there. If we nail the shots there will be one more shark listed on Elasmodiver.com and many new pics of old favorites like schooling hammerheads, silkies and Galapagos sharks.
I'll post a trip report as soon as we get back to land so keep an eye on this blog page and on Elasmodiver's Facebook Page for updates.

To keep Elasmodiver growing I need to keep shooting new species. In the big picture I've barely made a dent in the total number of sharks out there but you'd be surprised how hard it is to find new species once you have shot the standard elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) that divers regularly see.
Right now I am focusing on finishing up the North American Elasmos. There are three main areas that I need help with: Skates in Alaska, Smoothhound sharks in California and Baja, and some of the more elusive species from the Gulf of Mexico such as finetooth sharks, smalltail sharks, night sharks and Atlantic Angelsharks or 'sand devils'.
If you know where or how to find any of these critters (whether diving or fishing) please let me know and I may plan an expedition based around that info.
Remember, the rarer they are, the more we need images to make sure the world knows about them. Invisible animals don't get protected.

First live images of a scoophead shark. Shot in Panama in 2011. Only on Elasmodiver!

For the oceans,
Andy Murch