Saturday, June 26, 2010

Guadalupe - what's it gonna be?

Hot - and yes, it is a link! Click to enlarge.

Pete Thomas raises valid points.

His post about Shark diving in Guadalupe is well researched and really hits the nail on the head.
The question is, will the next GW season be a continuation of the stupid arms race whereby the operators try and one-up each other - or will the operators finally get together, agree on a common code of conduct and convince the Mexican authorities to play their role, step in and punish any transgressions?
Anybody taking bets?

Just as a reminder.
This is not about whether it is possible to safely swim with Great Whites outside of the cage – it is.
This is about whether the Guadalupe Shark diving operators should do so commercially, with paying tourists.

At first glance, the situation appears unequivocal.
So far, the official industry standard has been to keep clients in cages and cage-like structures (submersible cages are totally OK and the runabout is as hot as it gets) and to limit more direct encounters to industry professionals only, this in the aim of enabling them to “get the shot” - very much in line with what we do here in Fiji.

Recently, however, that definition has been stretched to the point that instead of being limited to professional video operators and photographers acting behind the camera, we’re now being presented with a whole host of questionable images depicting people, professional and not, interacting directly with Guadalupe’s GWS in front of the camera.
Like this one at 1:42 in an otherwise fantastic production – was that really necessary?


Or check out this video – am I really to believe that this was part of a genuine professional film shoot?
And anyway, what message do those clips convey?

Thing is, the clients see them and want to emulate the experience and above all, capture the same images.
That’s what customers will always do, to ask for special favors and to try and push the envelope ever a bit further. But the ultimate decision will always be ours, not theirs. In fact, on most Shark dives here in Fiji, one of us ends up saying No, sorry, we don’t do that to some customer – and every single one of those happens to be toting expensive cameras with super wide angle lenses.

Our intransigent stance does of course impact our bottom line – but the alternative would be to incur risks we deem unreasonable and to ultimately risk ending up with no business, no conservation and no jobs.
With that in mind, for us, the choice is simple.

Is the situation in Lupe any different?

Having asked several Lupe operators about their views, the answers are all the same.

Us guys are split between two camps.
One faction thinks to "get the business" you have to support this stuff or be part of it. The other thinks we should all just stick with the plan, you know, set diving protocols the usual. The shenanigans are coming from new folks and operators who are trying to make their mark.
Then there's those who support or even work with those guys for reasons that seem to me to be all about cock and ball ego, as in "lookee who I had over to dinner last nite ma."


It would seem that Mexico or the sharks will have to determine the final level of shenanigans at this site, and my bet is with the sharks who have had 100 million years to get their shit together - vs. Mexico who seems to be too preoccupied counting heads in paper bags on their borders to be all that effective in curbing idiots with sharky aspirations.
Can you tell I am a bit perturbed about this?


I have always believed that having customers out in open water with white sharks is simply not worth the risk. We will not do it period.
My partner boat owners feel the same way even more so - they hate to see us working out there with film crews. We have tried to convince all of the other owners the same. But when you have d…heads like the two Anuses out there, it just gets so frustrating.

With the competition always trying to one up the other guy, it makes it difficult to keep people interested in the controlled situation. They (the customer) will always want MORE than the last guy got.


We are not gonna be letting folks out of cages...
s..t, can you imagine the shit/fan scenario that would go on about that!
Personally, although I think I am pretty brave I don't think I am stupid, and it would take a LONG time of seeing these guys and knowing who was who before I would even think about swimming around with them.

But then, the reality seems to be much fuzzier.
We get plenty of Shark divers here announcing that they are going to Guadalupe where “somebody” has offered to “quietly and secretly” take them out of the cage.
And I get e-mails like

One of my guest who told me that they went snorkeling with the seals there!! I almost chocked on my tea!
Snorkeling with one the major food sources!! It was OK he told me - the water was only about 4 feet deep!!! Yup, not like they are gonna sneak up behind you in shallow water is it???? Honestly the more I hear in this business the more amazed I am at the stupidity of mankind!
I check out the Darwin awards on line sometimes and it reconfirms that for me!


I just had a client this week who did Lupe with … and they took the top off the cage, sent it down to the bottom (I think) so that when a white had come in it would dive down toward the bottom and they could get a better look!
He said they were told "if a white comes in to the cage, then you want to get out of the cage!" - well, no s..t! He said they sat around on the top of the cage for a while till they were bored and they swam about a bit with 4 -5 whites cruising around!!
Sounds like a when and not an if that someone is gonna get nibbled...

Yes Amos is of course the most brazen example of how those limits are continuously being tested - and will of course be tested again this year! For an additional fee!
I certainly won’t bore you with a re-hash of my take on the matter – but he certainly has a point when he complains about double standards!

In the end, it’s gonna be up to the operators and Mexico – as it should be.
They know the place, the animals, the risks, the rewards, the business models and they will win, or lose based on the decisions they will take – or not take!

So, what’s it gonna be?
More shenanigans or long-term sustainability?


RTSea said...

If people have followed my posts over the years, they know I have always promoted the distinction between protocols for paying customers versus professional film crews regarding exposure to large sharks like great whites.

I'll often add the caveat that assumes that the professional filmmaker has some valid reason for being outside of a cage other than to add a little extra thrill to the storyline.

Years ago, I suggested the need for the Guadalupe operators to work together in setting uniform protocols for baiting and diver safety that would satisfy growing concerns from Mexican officials. But it seems that competition amongst the operators is the overriding force.

We're possibly approaching a situation where Nash's equilibrium theory - well known in corporate circles for controlling self-interests for the greater good - would be appropriate here but, alas, probably ignored.

Does this mean there's a serious diver accident in Guadalupe's future? I hope not, for if that occurs, the reaction by the Mexican government may severely impact one of the world's best locales for observing white sharks.

DaShark said...

As always, excellent points!

Yes the direct exposure should indeed be absolutely necessary - and playing the guitar or abusing the animals as UW scooters does not qualify!

Like you, I'm not about to hold my breath on this one - as has happened on most, now defunct multi-user sites, competition will lead to ever increasing shenanigans and some reckless idiot will end up spoiling it for everybody.

That, you can take to the bank.

Robert said...

I hope that the ever increasing operators can find some common ground and do the safe thing.
RTSea, I hope that are successful and get protocols in place and followed.
I'll be visiting Isla De Guadelupe again this fall and am not impressed with the additional boats there but understand the appeal and the commercialism.
Too many people wanting to see the great whites etc. there is good for the sharks but too many operators trying to get there piece of the pie will work against everyone involved and as you both have stated, eventually the sharks will lose and that is the most important issue here.
I don't get paid to take photos/video or do research, therefore I am not leaving the cage. And I don't believe that I should be allowed to. Some dreams are better left unfulfilled.