Thursday, June 04, 2009

Back on Message

Another 1 of Sasha's unbelievable images! Click on it!

Thank you Underwater Thrills!

The discussion about what was intended as a post about Shark diving media, how we, the operators must act as stewards and gate keepers and how we miserably failed to do so in Fiji got derailed and quickly morphed into a petty mud slinging contest.

Not that I'm surprised: the Shark universe is populated by uniquely abrasive and strong personalities and in the present case, it was all too easy to interpret it as the attempt by one operator to rubbish his direct competitor.
Like in many other locations, there is a long history in which they are the "pioneers" and we, the "wannabees and interlopers" who "mooched" from them. The whole story is of course much more nuanced (and ugly) but the end result is that we often behave like squabbling children despite of our resolve not to debase ourselves by engaging in petty brawls in the gutter. Not something anybody wants to get embroiled in, not something anybody can be proud of and something I've sworn to try and avoid. Yes, the learning curve has been pretty flat - but there has been progress and this, too, will blow over as always.

Alas, it is the pure mechanics of the present event that have led to this unfortunate situation.
Our focus had been to prevent Gurney from ever entering the country and we had concentrated on talking to the relevant authorities and associations and then, to the liveaboard they had contacted. We were actually very confident that they would heed our warning and agree that we had to put a stop to the shenanigans and were thus completely unprepared and quite frankly shocked when it then ended up playing out as it did. And angry!

In that context, I'm particularly thankful to Patric for having reverted the discussion to its core message: the despicable anti-Shark rubbish producers like Gurney pitch and Discovery fund and then air, and the role we the operators, other enablers and the filming industry can, and need to play in order to prevent it from happening in the future.

I was happy to hear that several well-meaning, intelligent and passionate people out there are already working on various tangible initiatives aimed at reaching that goal.
I cannot really talk about it, the more as I don't know the details - but my hunch is that it involves coming up with better programs but also, coaching and empowering the operators.

Regardless of the end result (it won't be easy, it never is), that in itself is progress.
And if our rants have made a useful contribution to that discussion, we are quite happy to weather any resulting backlash - as there undoubtedly will be.

Shark diving is evolving at a staggering pace and this is but one small step in that process.
Yes there have been quite a few setbacks but overall, the direction is clear: as an Industry, we need to assume responsibility for protecting the Oceans we love and from which we derive our sustenance.

The big Gorilla in the room is of course the seemingly insatiable appetite for Shark fins and the resulting slaughter of Sharks. I've blogged about it before, the likely solution will have to be some sort of a compromise.

But we're just to small for tackling the Gorilla.
Our personal contribution to finding solutions consists in trying to help change perceptions - and trying to have the media depict a more positive image of Sharks is part of that effort.
We also believe in promoting small-scale Conservation that will help preserve and regenerate stocks until bigger and better funded NGOs and Governments agree to put in place better, comprehensive and Conservation-oriented legislation. Luckily for us, Fiji has already firmly embarked on that route.
Thirdly, we believe in sponsoring research that will provide the data required for that process.
And finally, we believe that we need to involve the local stakeholders and the Country that hosts us as this is the only way we will be able to achieve sustainable and enduring results.

This would be us - others have different priorities and aims.
Good to be back on message.

No comments: