Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Remember Hanlon's Razor?

That's what came to mind when I first viewed the latest Shark Diving Industry fiasco on Underwater Thrills (kudos for their post, well thought and well said!).

No I'm not talking about the operator Dolphin Dream, facilitators of underwater Kung Fu and other reckless and disrespectful Shark-related stupidities. They obviously don't give a rat's ass about safety protocols and the reputation of the Industry as long as they can make a quick buck. What has happened is not sustainable and it was their call, and obligation to put an end to the shenanigans. Shame on them.
But I'm repeating myself - and obviously, to no avail.

I'm talking about Eli.
Brother, what were you thinking?

Yes, Sharks are way cool and yes, cageless diving with macro Sharks is certainly possible and yes, one can feed them, too - that's precisely what we do here in Fiji.
But not like this!

Our procedures in Fiji are aimed at preventing any direct interactions between our clients and the Sharks. We believe that to be a prerequisite for any encounter with predatory macro Sharks.

But whenever I dare making a comment about the procedures at Tiger Beach, I'm being told that the difference to Fiji is that the Sharks never get excited as they are merely baited in with crates but never fed. Fair enough - never having been there, I have to trust the opinion of the local experts (tho after the Groh accident, I'm not convinced).

Anyway, let's assume that interaction is OK as long as the animals are not being fed: so why do I see somebody feeding a Tiger Shark out of the bait crate: is that you?
And if so, in what function? And where is the operator?

Yes, feeding Tiger Sharks is possible and cool, too: but don't you think that if one changes one side of the equation, one must change the other side as well?
As in making absolutely certain that the excited animals cannot freely circulate among the clients? Some of which are obviously absolute Shark Diving beginners?

Was this one-upmanship ("The Great Slide") even necessary from a commercial point of view?
Because this is what we're talking about: Commercial Shark Diving, not some private gratification and adrenaline rush!
On a commercial dive, customers have the right to expect that the operator -and the facilitator- will not subject them to unnecessary risks and observe the most stringent safety protocols. Fun certainly yes - but safety first and clearly, that requirement has not been met.

Do I hear: Extreme Shark Diving? As in what: Pushing the Envelope? Dangerous? Adrenaline? Macro?
Sure, that's something most of us in the Industry do, often in order to test and perfect our procedures and often for fun, too - but in private, with our closest and equally experienced friends, on our own money and from our own boat!
Never, ever with paying customers and newbies!

And: why in front of the mainstream media?
Maybe in order to change perceptions? If so, why didn't you stage a mellow and slow-paced encounter by observing the normal procedures? A dive that would have convinced the host that contrary to their reputation, Sharks are friendly and even timid, and that they deserve the very same respect and protection that is now being extended to the terrestrial Apex Predators?

Instead, the anchorman was scared to death and millions of viewers have been re-enforced in their opinion that Sharks are nothing but man-eating machines and that we're nothing but a bunch of reckless death-defying lunatics and adrenaline junkies.
Real bad news for people like us trying to conduct responsible Shark Ecotourism.

Granted, the mainstream media are overwhelmingly anti-Shark.
But we know that, don't we - so let's start being smart and let's make sure that we use them, and not they us, like unfortunately in this case.
You've been had, Eli
, and that's particularly unfortunate as I know that your heart is in the right place and that you really do care about the animals.
A great shame.

As to Dolphin Dream, lemme state this clearly: Divers, don't go there.
It will all end in tears and you don't want to be anywhere near it when it does.

PS: RTSea's comments here, Wolfgang's here.


Unknown said...

I just don't get it...honestly - and this is not the first time this happens. I think the lens is fogged up...it is a real shame that "shark divers" would take part knowing that the media would completely spin this. And I am not even sure if the heart is in the right place - because if it was...they would have never been part of this.

DaShark said...

I stick with the Razor - for now!

I believe this to be the result of infantile showmanship coupled with total ignorance about media control (this from a guy who owns a magazine...).

What beats me is an operator who continues to allow his CLIENTS (!!!) to do this shit, even enables it! Obviously trying to attract the rah-rah redneck crowd and obviously trying to one-up Abernethy.
I sure do hope the Bahamians shut him down - and I sure do hope you stop booking him!

BTW just saw your post - please tell your father that my heart goes out to him and that I send him my very best wishes for a fast and total recovery!

DaShark said...

I like Patric's wrap-up!

Read it:

Robert said...

Once again, you, Mike are the voice of common sense.

Our loyalty stays with Jim and Lawrence because we see their love and respect for the sharks. With 12 trips with them, we have never seen nor heard anything that would put the sharks or the divers in jeopardy.
The Groh accident was not the fault of Jim. I know the story and have seen the photo stream.

I am happy to say that Mary and I did not renew our subscription to that magazine a few months ago. We won't be enablers.


the One called "Bitey"... said...

(I love the MOD album cover! Great band, great guys - did a gig with them about a year ago... anyway...)

I've just written NBC/Today an email:

Good Afternoon:

I just finished watching your segment about diving at Tiger Beach - and I have to tell you I am APPALLED at this TRULY DISGUSTING display of rhetorical, fear-based NONSENSE about sharks and sharkdiving. I will be notifying all of my diving, shark diving, underwater photography and videography colleagues worldwide of just how SHAMEFUL this piece of journalistic RUBBISH is.

As a divemaster and avid shark photographer and conservationist, I want you to realize you should be well ashamed of perpetuating such vile myths and fear propaganda about these delicate and UTTERLY CRUCIAL creatures, who, based on such nonsensical fears as that which you're fueling, are being slaughtered to the point of extinction; species after species are seeing massive declines in population due purely to rapacious murder by humans - some species by as much as 90%.

When the top predator of any ecosystem goes, the ecosystem crumbles; the oceanic ecosystem is directly responsible for most of our air, water and food - and you want to stoke these RIDICULOUS fears of an almost perfect animal, DIRECTLY contributing to the continued misunderstandings and KILLINGS.

If you're concerned with "thrills" and "danger", do a piece about household dogs or automobiles - both of which kill many thousands more people than sharks even ever scratch.

This is shameful and wasteful "journalism", and you are ABUSING your position as a mass information venue.

T Goss
Divemaster, Shark Photographer

the One called "Bitey"... said...

(I also feel compelled to add: I too will continue to dive with Abernethy every chance I get; he is a real pro, takes everything he does seriously, has a genuine care for his divers and a genuine love for the ocean and everything in it. People love to demonize him for brushing off all the criticisms and continuing to do what he does, and all power in the world to him for that - he cares about the animals and the divers, not the propaganda.)

DaShark said...

Good on 'ya Terry!

Unfortunately, it aint gonna change anything, whatever we say.
Remember, for them, we're just a bunch of lunatics!

It's exactly as Patric says: as an Industry, we gotta grow up, step up and clean up our act.

Unknown said...

Who is going to take out the shark loving Leander freedivers? Jim does not allow it.

But you are all absolutely right about what you are saying here.

the One called "Bitey"... said...

I know Felix - I feel for you!
It's a bit of a catch-22.
(Thanks for the encouragement though....)

DaShark said...

Don't the Leanders come as leaders of groups - as in purveyors of full boat charters?

If so, you may want to consider the fact that Florida and the Bahamas may well feature the highest density of ocean-going vessels in the world!

I'm sure that there's many other charter boats that who would be more than grateful for your business Felix, especially in these difficult times.

Ideally, the boat should be based in the Bahamas so that the country could finally benefit from the Tiger Beach business.

Make sense?