Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Undercurrent on Sharks

We knew this was coming.

Vanessa Richardson contacted Andrew a while ago asking for his take on the Shark Diving Industry and whether we had changed anything after the Bahamas accident - the answer to that being, No why should we.
The result of her interviews, Death of a Shark Diver, Redux is a free, public article and you can read it right here .

And you should.
I must say that all-in-all, I like it. Not that I would agree with many of the opinions expressed therein - but still, it offers a largely unbiased overview of what is happening within the Industry, and that in itself is a good thing.

I particularly appreciated hearing something from Jimmy Abernethy.
Me, too, I've never witnessed a Shark acting as if divers were potential prey and although I remain skeptical about his procedures, he really is a master of his trade and certainly among the best operators offering cageless macro Shark encounters in the Bahamas - especially after having witnessed the unspeakable mayhem and stupidity perpetrated by other operators and facilitators last year. Yes I know, "somebody" will object to my take, and there's still the open question of why Tiger Beach is not being protected - but that's what I believe and I stick to it.

Burgess being Burgess, I didn't expect much else from him.
I certainly concur when he says that when Shark accidents happen, the culprits are not the animals but the people who attract them - hence the need for the strictest possible protocols if one decides to do so. Shark feeding is controversial and poorly researched and barring the publication of unequivocal data and results (keep watching this space!), everybody is entitled to an opinion - as long as it's not outright ludicrous and the person proffering it has some standing.
Which of course leads me straight to the world's foremost shark expert, and only professional shark-human interaction specialist! Hilarious! This is really the one time where CDNN got it right - on Ritter and incidentally, on Discovery's bite shows as well!
And I'll leave it at that!

As I said, good reading - the links, too!


Brad said...

Jimmy was issued a Cease and Desist order.

Jimmy simply ignored it.

A diver is dead by a shark who attacked him.

Here is the warning Jimmy ignored.

Everything that has been said, written, or posted about this after the event is spin, nothing more.

Dangerous Shark Species Interaction Warning Letter

To: All Dive Operations Conducting Questionable Dangerous Species Shark Interactions in the Waters of The Islands of The Bahamas

From: Bahamas Diving Association, Official Recognized Diving Association for 36 members of The Islands of The Bahamas

To Whom It May Concern;

We have become aware that some dive operators have chosen to disregard standard safe-diving practices as it relates to interactions with Tiger Sharks and other potentially dangerous species of Sharks, in various locations within the waters of The Islands of The Bahamas.

The Bahamas Diving Association endorses and suggests all dive operators in the legal waters of The Islands of The Bahamas follow GMAC guidelines for conducting potentially dangerous marine-life and human interactions.

In such, we recommend all operations immediately cease and desist conducting open-water non-cage Shark Diving experiences with known species of potentially dangerous Sharks, such as Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Lemon Sharks & Mako Sharks.
Species that we have determined safe to interact with outside of a cage are Caribbean Reef Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, Black-Nose Sharks, Nurse Sharks and Silky Sharks.

Many operators in the Bahamas conduct shark diving interactions with ‘safe’ species, and have done so for over 25 years without a major incident. However, due to the potential negative behavioral reactions of Tiger Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Lemon Sharks & Mako Sharks, purposeful feeding or interaction with these species without a proper shark cage is highly discouraged.

The Bahamas Dive Association (BDA) would be glad to help communicate industry-standard safe shark interaction practices, should you need any assistance with your procedures.

This letter will be copied to the Bahamas Government, plus all diving insurance and training agencies serving The Islands of The Bahamas.


Mr. Neal Watson
Bahamas Diving Association

DaShark said...

Brad, that's certainly a possible interpretation of what has happened - and if so, there would be nothing to add.

Personally, I don't quite see it that way.

If you've read the links in the post, you know that we interact with the very same, or very similar species and that we do so without deploying cages. So do many operators in South Africa.

From our experience, the differentiation between "safe" and "dangerous" Sharks appears arbitrary inasmuch as we would e.g. place Lemons in the former and Reefs in the latter category.
I know there have been many, albeit not fatal accidents with Caribbean Reefs and to me, the species list appears suspiciously self serving.

We however believe in the need to strictly segregate the Sharks and the customers and pictures like the one I posted indicate that this is often not being done.
Cages are certainly one, but not the only way to achieve that goal, especially in a reef environment.

Yes a diver has died - as have many others during "ordinary" SCUBA dives.
Undoubtedly, baited Shark dives add yet another dimension of risk and require enhanced vigilance and supervision by the operators - but when something happens, the question remains precisely the same: was this the direct consequence of the operator's negligence.

That question has been answered, at least legally. It was an accident.

Having said this, I wish I would stop seeing those pictures and videos from Tiger Beach. But in all fairness, the ones that are being generated on Jimmy's trips are comparatively harmless.
The dangerous people, be it boat owners or trip leaders, are others.

I may be repeating myself but the best solution would really be if the Bahamas would declare that site a Marine Protected Area complete with user fees and codes of conduct.
Plus, it would be great Conservation and excellent business on top of that.

Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

I would have to agree with Da Shark.

The images from Jimmy operation which prompted the original c and d are benign compared to the next generation of self styled shark experts who jumped into the void and pumped out a series of insane shark media.

By the way did we ever figure out who this guy was:

Surprisingly, I believe there's a place for cageless encounters with Tigers and other so called dangerous species.

But - and this is the caveat, if this site is not yours, meaning it is territorial waters not under your direct control as in Fiji and S.A you as an operator are obligated to defer to those who came before. Full Stop.

You are also obligated to not leave a mess in the host countries backyard.

There's been so much said about this it's almost pointless, except the legacy of that accident/attack will continue to damage the industry for year and years to come.

A long time ago a good friend of mine from the south once told me:

"If you're going to put yer cock in a hole in a fence...make sure you know what's on the other side of that fence".

Let's all look at commercial shark diving operations from the other side of the fence.

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

First off, aything with Neal Watson's name on it can safely be dismissed, out of hand. He tried to partner with Jim and when denied, he's spent the rest of his "career" trying to get back at him.
Second, If you've never dived with Jim and his crew, I can't really trust that you can offer any truly constructive criticism - Jim is the best divemaster I've ever seen, and his dives are safer than most resorts' shore dives with little fishies.

But again, yes to all the above comments re: needing to convene and reassess what's becoming of the top shark sites and shark diving in general.

Brad said...

Hi Bitey,

I was not slamming Jim just stating fact. For all anyone has said post attack about how safe and how excellent a dive operator he is, the fact remains on his watch, without cages, a man was killed by a shark.

Jim's lasting legacy will always be this attack. The damage that attack caused to the shark diving world has been his legacy as well.

Unknown said...

Every time I read that note from Neil Watson I laugh thinking about the clown - especially funny in the note is:

"Species that we have determined safe to interact with outside of a cage are Caribbean Reef Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, Black-Nose Sharks, Nurse Sharks and Silky Sharks."

Time to get off Jim's stated by others he probably runs the safest cage-free operation and is 100% passionate about sharks - something that I cannot say about most operators.

Shark attack was a misfortune...countless other attacks have happened in the Bahamas (no death) but "safe" sharks have had run ins with divers.