Pretty grim - and these bites are merely superficial! Click for detail.
From the Abstract.
Introduction: Shark-based ecotourism is significantly developing around the world, often without appropriate management of risk. This activity involves a risk of accidental bites on divers that can be quite severe or even fatal.
Objectives: To determine if ecotourism companies’ liability can be engaged in the context of bites on scuba divers in presence of hand-feeding practices, supporting the legitimacy of financial compensation for the victims.
Methods: We analyzed the development from the mid-eighties to 2010 of shark-based ecotourism through artificial provisioning practices in Moorea Island (French Polynesia) and more specifically the features and motivation of two bites on divers by Sicklefin Lemon sharks.
Results: The specific practice of hand-feeding can be considered as a facilitating factor for accidental bites on divers, potentially involving the diving operator’s responsibility.
Conclusions: Our findings should support the technical work of experts that might be called in such cases.
Didn't I tell you that the last paper had an agenda!
This one, titled Determining the Role of Hand Feeding Practices in Accidental Shark Bites on Scuba Divers is by one of the previous authors, my pal Eric Clua, and by, I believe, anthropologist Frédéric Torrente. It describes the history of the chaotic and now largely defunct Shark diving industry in Moorea along with two of the numerous non-predatory strikes by provisioned Sicklefin Lemons, see pic at top. It comes to the general conclusion that in certain cases, Shark diving operators may bear some responsibility and may even be liable should a client be injured.
Like I've stated for many, many years, baited commercial Shark diving is not SCUBA diving, and the clients have a reasonable expectation that we operators keep them safe. Yes, we make them sign liability waivers which should hopefully exclude the most frivolous complaints - but when operators are clearly negligent, it is only fair that they be held accountable!
But having said that, Elke obviously likes to get real close and undoubtedly bears her share for the fiasco. Having been at the receiving end many a time, I can attest to the pressure those eager image hunters will bring to bear - not easy to handle in an industry where client satisfaction and word-of-mouth recommendations are critical to one's financial survival!
Long story short?
Good one Eric - and for you out there who STILL don't understand what it means to conduct Shark tourism dives, re-read a) these 90-odd posts about our industry and then, b) these 80-odd posts about the need for proper procedures!
It comes to the conclusion that ecologically, provisioning can have effects at the individual, group and population level, and that those effects are generally neutral to negative.
Well what can I say - probably that's true!
It just so happens that every single one of the authors is a pal of mine - and because I know them, I also suspect that on top of the science that is probably pretty much irrefutable, the paper also has a political agenda, and that is, to obliquely address the mess that is Shark diving in French Polynesia, see the link at the top.
Now don't get me wrong here.
Shark diving in French Polynesia is nothing short of stellar.
But when it comes to the feeding dives, most local moniteurs appear to believe that they're god's gift to Shark diving, meaning that they are entirely impervious to accepting even the most common-sense advice (steel mesh gloves anybody?) - and as a consequence, bites are rife. So far, most of the accidents did involve the comparatively harmless reefies - but now that everybody and his dog is flocking to the new, completely unregulated and multi-user Tiger Shark dive just outside of Papeete, the risk profile has risen astronomically and once again, it's really only a matter of time til things will end up in tears. Same-same for the stupid idea of having snorkeling tourists hand feed the small reefies - seriously, WTF?
It's same old same old, so I'm really not gonna dwell, the more as having been there, the discourse is way too ego-driven and frankly leads to nowhere, meaning that the situation appears pretty much hopeless unless the regulator decides to finally regulate.
Hint hint! :)
But I'm digressing.
I can't really say that I love the paper because its conclusions are pretty much obvious, and because it does not really address the principal cause of most of the enumerated problems = bad procedures. As an example, the much-cited disaster at Stringray City is entirely the consequence of piss-poor management and regulations!
Anyway - worth reading!
My take-away: better procedures and more research into those possibly negative effects - pretty much done on the former (tho always learning and always adapting!), and very much working on the latter, so keep watching this space!
And one last thought if I may.
The problem is not Shark diving - not for the animals and not for the people.
Compared to the overfishing and the habitat degradation, the inconvenience caused by the industry is nothing. And yes there have been many, mostly accidental bites - but as far as I know, during literally innumerable provisioned Shark dives, there has been a grand total of ONE documented fatality. Compare that to the same time spent engaging in ordinary SCUBA and ask yourself the question, which is by far the safer activity?
So, lets please keep things in perspective - and let's also never forget to always mention the industry's enormous contribution to both conservation and research that outweighs any of those possible minor deleterious effects by far!