Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Nat Geo - Hit Piece against Cage Diving!

You probably need to read it several time, inclusive of the extensive and really interesting comments thread to really appreciate the enormity of some of those statements.

Now don't get me wrong here.
I'm in no way of the opinion that cage diving with GWS is an absolute necessity.
In fact, I've never elected to do it as watching Sharks from the confines of a cage holds no real appeal to me. And despite having been offered to go cageless countless times, I just simply lack the motivation to invest all that time to go and do it on my own terms, i.e. not based upon the judgement of others but instead, only after having spent the necessary many hours observing and trying to understand the animals - and then progressing very slowly and in tiny increments like I've done here in Fiji.

And, I frankly don't like the spectacle.
Guadalupe with its stellar viz may be slightly different - but both in Australia and South Africa, visibility is often severely limited and it is therefore necessary to lure the Sharks really close to the cages so that the clients can observe them. The consequence is that most of the spectators will only experience them at their worst, hyper excited and toothy behavior, which is frankly a shame and also quite antiquated - and unfortunately, I hear, this is being aggravated by the stupid macho antics of some of the operators there.
With that in mind, I applaud the gradual introduction of bottom cages in Australia and Lupe as they showcase a more sedate and "natural" aspect of the Sharks - but only to certified divers and since apparently, most of the clients in Gansbaai are not, it may be less viable there.

Granted we here are equally guilty and have in the past enabled plenty of toothy shots like Sasha's stellar Bull Shark closeup at the top - but more recently, we've permanently shut down the infamous pit, and this to everybody including yours truly, and are trying to showcase the gentler side of our Bulls by limiting the number of hand feeds and the amount of food, and by discontinuing to feed when matters start to get amped up.
It's not by any means perfect - but at least we try and yes, it is a gradual evolution.

And I also agree with Evans that natural encounters remain unmatched.
But they are simply not possible, at least not predictably everywhere and with all species - that is, unless one takes up his idiotic suggestion and goes diving in search of GWS in the spots pointed out by the surfers! GREAT idea - and talk about sustainable tourism there!

So by all means.
If you want to observe Sharks doing sharky things in their natural environment, go for it - but unless you're incredibly lucky, forget about ever seeing a GWS, Tiger or Bull! They want nothing to do with us, hear us coming from far away and get the hell outta there way before we can even see them. And if not, they will usually only do a quick flyby and then be on their way, never to be seen again - or they may circle back and then, you may end up being less than pleased with the experience! :)

Thus I really got no problems with personal opinions and choices.
But whereas Evans uses that as an excuse not to engage in any debates with those readers who do not agree with his standpoint, his is much more that a simple opinion piece - his diatribe is a highly misleading and malicious attack on the Shark diving industry that far from being objective is fielding a whole array of falsehoods and anti-industy propaganda to further his agenda.
Like he says, whether you choose to dive or choose not to, you are picking sides - and he sure has!

But don't worry - I wont dwell.
Some of the interlocutors in the comments thread are excellent people with a wealth of local experience, and their eloquent statements far exceed whatever I could ever contribute.

Just this.
  • Cage diving is totally sustainable.

    Even the very link he posts asserts that it does not harm the animals, and all the research on the topic has so far been unable to document any notable negative ecological impacts. There are local effects that are however not at all major like suggested but instead, pretty much irrelevant in the big scheme of things. Re-read this post and the links, and especially, this post about those findings from Australia - significant change in great white shark behavior my ass!

    It is also totally misleading to insinuate that those operations use tons of chum to lure in Sharks from somewhere else. As countless observations confirm, they are already there, often right in the surf zone. The operators merely travel to where the Sharks are, and the little bait is merely being used to draw them closer to the cages so that the clients can see them.

    And the postulated increase in attacks that is maliciously being linked to the industry?
    With all due respect for the victims, I sure hope that I don't need to elaborate on why those absolute numbers are so minuscule that the resulting rates of increase are totally irrelevant, statistical non-events that can easily be reversed by mere chance.
    But I don't "do" Shark strikes and got no inclination to go and rummage for evidence - so should you really be interested in the minute details, go and read this excellent post by David who debunks the rubbish point-by-point.

    The way I see it, those strikes are ultimately nothing but the inevitable consequence of ever more aquatic recreationists sharing the ocean with a likely increasing number of big GWS, the latter owing to their protected status. In brief, it's a simple numbers game - and the industry has zero effect on it!
  • Cage diving has been a simply massive driver for GWS conservation.

    To assert otherwise is just simply sheer ignorance, and to dispute the validity of research that is being enabled by the industry is both disrespectful and frankly stupid as it shows a total lack of understanding for the scientific process.

    GWS are now protected locally, nationally, internationally and globally, and this specifically owing to the tireless and impassioned advocacy of those early cage diving pioneers like Rodney Fox and the Taylors in Australia, and their counterparts in South Africa! If it were not for those people, the images they have captured and the industry showcasing those magnificent animals, many GWS populations would likely be locally extinct and not very much on the increase instead!
    Animal that is in rapid decline my ass! Again!
Long story short?
It's exactly like Eli says: the article is the result of ignorant prejudice coupled with an abject lack of proper research, a sorry example of shoddy journalism that is being driven by a totally misguided perception of the industry both in its effects and its motivations and quite apparently, by an equally totally misguided perception of ecotourism as some sort of purist nature-hugging exercise - notabene best conducted by booking one of Nat Geo's commercial "expeditions", and this ideally via private jet!

I say, shame on them.
On Evans for this piece of crap but especially, on Nat Geo for allowing him to denigrate the very people they so often cooperate with for their Shark productions.

Nuff said.

1 comment:

tonylindeque said...

If you have a few minutes read some of the other posts he has on travel and it becomes clear he is an idiot with a company credit card.