Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bahamas Shark Attack-The Debate

Heated passions regarding the unfortunate events of last week have boiled over into the Shark Diver Blog on the Internet.

At hand a blog posting, which was intended not as a serious investigative look at the Bahamas Incident but more of a commentary on unfolding events.

We separate our blog from our website for this very reason. In keeping with the existing blog format we had little idea this blog event in less than 72 hours would become as nasty and as polarized as it has. A few of the comments made to our website from Wet Pixels web site were well beyond anything that would be considered normal or rational discourse. This continues to be the case.

I would have expected this response to the Cyber Diver Network.

It is abundantly clear to anyone reading our blog that we had not kept up with current media as to "when and where" this event took place. In the 48 hours following this shark attack no one knew any solid details. For a blog that until Monday got 50 visitors a day-up to date reporting was not in keeping with how we did things.

I spoke at length with Eric Cheng on the phone this evening. He explained a side of Jimmy I had known through our industry. Of a man who graciously introduced a new underwater photographer to the world sharks for the first time. This is in essence what I have always come to know about Jimmy Abernathy. Gracious, loyal and yes, a shark diving maverick.

This does not take away from the fact that a man is now dead, and serious questions remain unanswered. Namely was this an "accident" or the sad conclusion to an ongoing cageless shark diving operation that many have questioned for several years now. The discussion about this needs to happen, minus the vitriol.

In the coming weeks there will be much bigger issues with serious and long lasting agendas to contend with. Shark Diver stands ready to meet those issues and to work with those within the industry that will see positive things come of the shark diving world. These animals are being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate, dive sites are being pillaged even as I write this blog.

A reality check is in order. We can send unimaginable emails to each other filled with hate and vitriol for the next six weeks, point fingers, settle old and new scores, posture, pose and scream, or perhaps channel that same passion into long lasting and positive efforts. The choice is the industries to make.

In the end Shark Diver is beholdent to one group and one group only. Our divers. We choose to offer them the highest safety standards we can give them.That means shark cages with big predators.

Patric Douglas CEO

Death in the Bahamas-Shark Related?

The shark attack story coming from the Bahamas continues to evolve and as expected the industry has broken into two distinct camps. One look at either the Wet Pixel site or Scuba Board will give you a clear look at how high emotions are surrounding this unfortunate death.

As the hard facts coming from this event have all but ceased, speculation on what caused this divers death have ranged from outright shark attack, to embolism brought about from an uncontrolled ascent.

Even the dive sites location story line has changed from Tiger Beach to a new local somewhat prophetically called "The end of the world".

There are some hard facts that we do know:

1. The Bahamas Dive Association did send a Cease and Desist letter in 2006-7 to all operations in the Bahamas referring to non caged encounters with macro predators. They went as far as specifically identifying the species that might put divers at risk. It was clear and concise. There are some who might argue the legal weight of this C and D, but the fact remains we, as an industry who advertise, book and take divers to this pristine dive site were put on notice.

2. Jimmy Abernathy had no cages on site at the time of this shark attack.

Here's the official letter from the BDA in 2006-7:

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