Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Shark Molesting - Article!


Nice job David!

This is a real nice piece of Shark journalism.
My quotes are excerpts from the following short interview, and regular readers will be shocked to notice that I'm being exceedingly civil - but worry not, this is by no means a change of attitude but merely the reflection of the fact that after much soul searching, I've ended up acquiescing to the request that the responses be kept PG-13. :)
Should you have missed what I really think - read this!

So there - enjoy!
1) Please state your name and affiliation/title as you'd like it to appear in the article (and a link to your business website) 

I am Mike Neumann, a shareholder of Beqa Adventure Divers
We are a dive operator specializing in baited shark dives with several sharks, among which our flagship species bull sharks. We are also heavily invested in shark research and shark conservation, the latter both directly and through advocacy. 

2) In general, is shark diving good for sharks? Why or why not?

In general terms, yes. 
Shark diving showcases some of the most charismatic marine species and has a proven track record of furthering shark conservation by enabling the public to acquire a better understanding and appreciation of these magnificent animals. Many reputable shark diving operators are also actively engaged in conservation and research, the latter often in cooperation with the research community to whom they provide access to the animals but also invaluable long-term data, etc. 

The above however with a big caveat. 
Like any other organized wildlife tours, shark diving can also be highly detrimental if conducted incorrectly. E.g. whale shark tourism had to be regulated in order to avoid issues of operator overcrowding and harassment. Baited dives with large predatory sharks carry inherent risks that need to be properly managed in order to avoid accidents that would ultimately reflect negatively on the sharks. 

3) Have you observed (or heard of) customers change their minds about sharks after interacting with them up close? 

Countless times! 
We service clients of all experience levels and it is always inspiring to observe the awe and exhilaration especially of the newbies once they realize that the sharks are nothing like the negative stereotypes but instead simply awesome and beautiful – and badass! 

4) What do you think of recent "daredevil" behavior, ie riding sharks and filming it? Are these divers in danger, even if they have experience around sharks? 

As you know, I hate it and have publicly criticized that practice for many years. 
My main grievance is this: I hope that everybody agrees that riding harmless species like turtles, manatees, nurse sharks, manta rays or whale sharks is totally disrespectful and moronic – so why would riding those predatory sharks be anything else? 
Being in the presence of those wonderful animals is a privilege. We need to admire and respect them – not molest them! 

The risk aspect plays a secondary role – but yes, these close interactions with large predators are always dangerous. Highly experienced people may possibly limit those risks through adequate behavior and safety protocols – but the increasing number of inexperienced copycats makes me fear that somebody will end up having a bad accident. 

5) If someone gets hurt while riding a shark, what will the consequences be for your industry? For sharks in general? 

As long as those remain private undertakings, common sense will likely prevail as the overwhelming majority of people will state the obvious, i.e. that the perpetrator was a fool who got what he was asking for.

What however concerns me are trends in the industry whereby some commercial operators enable ever closer direct interactions between their clients and those large predatory sharks, and this in baited conditions. I am convinced that it’s only a matter of time before this will precipitate a major accident – and if so, it will reflect very negatively on the industry in general and reinforce the already widespread reservations against our activities. This can also not be good for the sharks. 

Having said that, I am equally convinced that the consequences for those operators that are on record for not approving of those developments and for observing stringent safety protocols will be minimal.

6) People say that they are riding sharks to help show others that sharks aren't dangerous. What do you think of this? 

First things first: those large predatory sharks are dangerous and asserting otherwise is both disingenuous and stupid.

It is also a stupid conservation strategy.
Nobody asserts that e.g. the big cats, bears and large and/or venomous reptiles are harmless – and yet we preserve them because we appreciate their beauty and ecological role, and because we believe in preserving biodiversity. Predators have every right to be predators and we need to respect and admire them as such. The best conservation strategy is to concentrate on awareness and education whilst advocating legislative change - not those misleading stunts. 

By the same token, it is at best naive to assert that Sharks are imperiled because the public does not like them. 
Like with all other endangered large predators, the principal risks for sharks are commercial overexploitation coupled with habitat destruction and human encroachment leading to conflicts. Shark fishermen kill sharks because they are trying to make a living, not because they hate them – and I can equally assure you that no fisherman in say, Indonesia will stop fishing because of some scantily clad peroxide piranha swimming loops around a perplexed Oceanic Whitetip! 

And finally allow me one last observation: upon closer inspection, the main motivation of those people appears to be personal gain - be it perceived fame, revenue from selling those images or marketing for their corporate sponsors. Far from being admirable, this is highly hypocritical.

7) Have you observed changes in your industry in recent years? 

Yes I have. 
On the positive side, many operators have become more active in shark conservation because they have witnessed the decline of sharks first hand and decided that something needed to be done. Others have been driven into it by competitive pressure. It is also great to see an increase in the number of shark divers and shark conservationists. 

On the negative side, like I said, I observe the trend towards ever closer encounters with great apprehension. 
And when it comes to shark conservation, I deplore what I call the dolphinization of the shark movement whereby predatory sharks are being depicted as puppy dogs and the media are increasingly being driven by shameless self promoters, cheats and charlatans. 

8) Is there anything else you'd like to share about your business, the broader industry, or your thoughts on this daredevil behavior? 

I wish that the industry were more cohesive, and that we could all agree that we carry a collective obligation to act as stewards of the animals we showcase. That very much includes desisting from enabling those horrible productions by Discovery, Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild.


Thank you for this opportunity! 


OfficetoOcean said...

This is really, very, extremely brilliant

Name and address withheld for fear of ridicule, not ready to come out of the dank closet said...

Da Shark,

On behalf of Shark Molesters the world over I ask, "what's your beef?"

Sharks have evolved to LOVE our embraces, to SEEK OUT our cold hard grips on their dorsal fins, to THRILL at being turned upside down.

It's natural. It's right.

Sharks do it with us for conservation because they know that awareness is their salvation and we are just humble conduits.

Shark Molesters are pure of heart.

We only care for the sharks not the media attention.

We have been as maligned and misrepresented as the good folks over at NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association).

It's time to set the record straight. Shark Molesters care for sharks in ways that few understand.

Please reconsider your rants against us, we just want the best for sharks, one ride, one flip, and one deep hug at a time.


Shark Diver said...

Mike, you're famous now. I blogged about this article, before I saw that you did the same. Dang it, beat me to it again.

I wish that more operators would think like you!

DaShark said...

Mike, you're famous now.

Well it's about bloody time!

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece mate, 'Ego before Ethics' has a nice ring to it. Sad to say I think it will also figure as a suitable eulogy for any one of these idiots who seem to be multiplying at a rate that would put any Rabbit breeder to shame.

I guess long flowing blond locks is also a prerequisite. Kinda counts us out mate...

Tropical Selkie said...

Shark huggers = shuggers.

The Sharkman said...

Excellent article and right to the point.

Respect these awesome creatures.

Keep up the great work.