Sunday, February 23, 2014

The raping of Bimini!

Money shot - if that doesn't say it all!.

Boy was I wrong.

As soon as I posted it, I got swamped with angry e-mails and comments. I didn't post any of them as they were bad for tourism and would have simply led to even more aggro.
But it's getting ever worse, so there.

But first, read this.
And this.
And this.
And this.

And this about the risk of popularizing locations without proper management in place.
It obviously applies to fishing - but it applies equally to all the other competing and mutually exclusive users of that resource, namely the scientists, the operators and the tourists!

And this year, they are all in Bimini.
The usual pathetic gang of hypocritical self promoting media whores and Shark pornographers; the elderly self proclaimed silverback of Bahamian Shark diving who throws around his weight, threatens to sue everybody and hand feeds the Hammers to prove that HE can; most revoltingly, the competing researchers who publicly rubbish the work of the Sharklab; the narcissistic bimbo in her moronic Shark suit; the self declared star photographers with their talentless retinue of camera toting wannabees; the interaction junkies that will never just sit back and admire but must always grab, feed and molest; the Facebook Shark warriors who must post a Hammer to their timeline; the external interlopers who leave nothing on the island but instead cause direct harm to the local economy, tourism and dive industry.
And the list goes on and on and on - it's all there on the blogs, the tweets, the Facebook pages and in the media, because of course in this day and age, nothing has any value whatsoever unless it is being conducted on camera and then paraded to the masses.
They know who they are - and so do you!

And with the notable exception of a handful of good people that find themselves embroiled in this shit, not a single one of those folks gives a fuck about the Sharks.
Forget all the bullshit about how they love the animals, and how what they do helps conservation. It's not about the Sharks, it's all about them - the money, the pathetic little fame, showcasing the most distorted close-up of a Hammerhead, capturing the footage for the next hit piece on Shark Week, enacting the latest in a series of stupid product placements with a Shark in the background, hobnobbing with the celebs - you name it, it's all there.
And they will do whatever it takes to reach their goals, all the way to harassing other divers and resorting to underhanded defamation, public insults and threats, and even fist fights - which is then amply reciprocated by the locals!

And the Sharks?
Yes all those stunts are disrespectful of the local community that has taken the time to pen and circulate a code of conduct that discourages hand feeding and grabbing - but the Hammers don't give a shit.
Like Eli correctly remarks, they come close and allow those interactions because they don't mind - and I may add, very much to the contrary of those terrified Sharks that get hauled up to boats where throngs of hollering teenagers stick on bling, pose for trophy selfies and then take a ride for the cameras once they get released! Yes it's research, some of which vital - but the shenanigans are not, and you may be well advised to clean up your own act before engaging in finger pointing!

And then, there's the fiasco with the Bulls.
A witness with heaps of experience and zero agendas writes.
At the Big Game Club and Marina there is a dedicated program to wow visitors by feeding the bull sharks that frequent the area.
There's even a sign tied at the end of the dock to woo passing boaters to stop and "enter a shark cage and see bull sharks in the wild." At the south dock a floating dock has been installed and a partially submerged shark cage placed there. "Customers" get in the cage and the hosts take carcasses tied to ropes and tease the sharks into a frenzy where they're flopping all over the surface, tails up, heads up, fins up. There are usually eight or more large and girthy bulls present during the feeding and that many swimming under the docks almost 24/7.

These same animals are now being fed, hand fed, teased, pushed, ridden, just outside the gate by anywhere from one to six boats per day. The Bulls come in with high tide, but at low tide hang around Hammerhead Beach. They are now B-list stars of Hammerhead Beach and getting fed by more and more divers under variable conditions on a daily basis. The chum offshore is a big problem. 20 bulls at a time is the norm now. More animals than have been seen in previous years and because of hand feeding they are white hot. They went from nothing out there to a chum tsunami. Not surprised they come in frisky.
The other day my boss, also a diver and captain, saw one guy luring a shark to jump up onto the dive platform of his sportfish in pursuit of the bait he was teasing it with.

The local kids now say they're afraid to swim and I can't say that I blame them.
My concern is that sooner or later a swimmer, a kid with feet hanging in the water splashing, a drunk who falls in is going to be severely if not fatally injured by one of these conditioned and aggregated bull sharks.
One bad bite and there will most likely be an imbalanced and severe response that will lead to the killing of every bull shark in sight and possibly every other shark that is reachable. This would include Doc Gruber's Caribbean reef shark feeding spot and the hammerhead feeding area, too where right now there are many bulls joining in the feeds along with numerous large nurse sharks.
This is serious.
It looks like after the initial cautious approach where there was only a bit of food stimulation, some yahoo at the BBR has obviously decided to jack up the entertainment value by amping up the Sharks; and after last year's shenanigans where Stuart Cove set the precedent by barging in and trying to lure away the animals by dumping several hundred pounds of bait for his usual Shark pornographer friends, it has now become a free-for-all where every idiot believes that he's God's gift to Shark wrangling.
Contrary to the ever more appalling stupidities at Tiger Beach, this is however not happening in an remote completely isolated and thus rather safe location but instead, right in front of the beaches and smack in the middle of heavy traffic by other aquatic recreationists.
It has become a grave public hazard and must be stopped at once.

The locals?
A friend writes.
People on the ground will get hit with the classic and sadly effective industry missives if they do anything to stop the shenanigans:
  1. "They're just jealous of our success" 
  2. "They're just haters" - (add to this #1 as an extension) 
  3. "They haven't done anything for REAL conservation" - (add to this #1 and or #2 as an extension)
  4. "They just want all the sharks for themselves" - (add to this #1, #2 or #3 as an extension)
Thus endeth the lesson from the Big Book of, "Stupid Things Shark Industry Folks Say." Please read through chapters 19 and 44 this week, there will be a test Thursday on, "How to finger bang a Hammerhead while denying that you are doing so to a concerned industry and the media." Also please submit your final draft images and videos for shark saddles, and moronic conservation quotes at that time.
Yes maybe - but this cannot be allowed to continue.
They've been warned last year, and this by multiple sources, that this was gonna happen, and that they had one year to set in place the necessary framework for developing this organically - and I'm sorry to say that there has been zero leadership and that they have spectacularly failed.

And now?
Like in other places where self regulation has failed, the regulator must step in. Those stupid antics pose an imminent danger to the local population, and the foreign interlopers are blatantly circumventing if not directly breaking the law.

  • Chumming, baiting and feeding.
    The chumming needs to be regulated (limited amounts, designated localities), access regulated and coordinated, hand feeding and luring the Sharks to the surface prohibited, there needs to be a one mile exclusion zone from the coast, there need to be heavy fines for transgressors, jail and confiscation of vessels for repeat offenders, etc. In view of the risks to the general population, this can be decreed and enforced via urgent police ordnance.
  • Foreign liveaboards.
    Those are not visiting yachts, those are intruding unregulated businesses. There needs to be business licenses, working permits, tourists need to pay daily fees akin to hotel bed taxes, imported goods like fuel and food need to be taxed, operators must submit to local rules including those of the BDA, etc. I'm sure all of that is already in the law books - now it must be enforced.
  • Commercial shooters.
    They are doing business, and they must obtain the necessary licenses and pay appropriate deposits upon entering the country.
Not rocket science is it.
That's how we handle it in Fiji in order to protect our tourism industry, and it works.

Long story short, this is a fucking disgrace.
Everybody has a story and plenty of excuses - but at this stage, it doesn't matter anymore who said and did what. There are no good and bad guys here anymore, everybody is equally complicit in this epic fiasco. And with the season drawing to an end, immediate improvements are unlikely - so let's all just hope and pray that nobody gets nailed by a Shark.

And then, you got to clean up this fucking mess.
You got 10 months time - so stop fretting, grow a spine, take control and just fucking do it.

And then go and earn the money you and the local community so amply deserve to make.


Shark Diver said...

I haven't been to the BBR lately, but I was the one, setting it up last year. The feeding of the sharks was mostly done by the fishermen, cleaning their catch at the end of the day. That is why the Bull sharks have been there for ages. Hemingway mentioned them way back when.

Like I said, I don't know what the current operator is doing, but having bulls there pretty much 24/7 was normal, way before the BBR was started.

As for the rest of the things you mention, I couldn't agree more!

DaShark said...

= much like Walker's Key in the old times, and that's OK.

But now that the barbarians have taken over, it has obviously all gone sour.

IMO close it down as it's too close to shore and will face the brunt of the backlash if anything happens.

Shark Diver said...

You are probably right. Not my decision to make though.

Shark Diver said...

We'll be doing our Bull shark diving with the "real" Bull sharks in Fiji!

OfficetoOcean said...

I'm sitting here wanting to comment but I don't really know what to add! I agree with what you're saying and it was pretty predictable but then, my voice is merely that of a customer of these types of operation and not a stakeholder or owner.

It does frustrate me that I have always wanted to start or be a part of a small shark diving operation in a cool place which does all the things you rightly say should be done and even more, but how are people like me ever going to get that chance to do that?

Where there is money, there will always be those willing to sell their soul (if they had one in the first place) and it does concern me that these are the guys who always seem to be winning these days?

Still you gotta have hope and belief in the good guys and hopefully everyone can work together to make things better.

DaShark said...

The heavies of Bahamian Shark diving, Watson and Cove are involved and should be able to sort this out.

Or not.
Let's see what prevails - common sense and long term planning, or instead, good old short term greed.

Any bets?