Blow back from a failed and spectacularly poor commercial shark diving roll out continues to haunt existing operations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
As we have long said within our industry - actions taken as an operator affect not only your operation but those around you. The media, the public, and lawmakers see "one group" when the subject of commercial shark diving comes up and rarely see individuals or businesses.
This week as expected reporters in Hawaii closed in on the legal side of existing operations and an apparent loop hole that exists in the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which states it is unlawful to use food or any other substance in federal waters off Hawaii to attract sharks unless they are being caught or killed for human use.
Bizarrely, if existing operations killed sharks on their tours what they would be doing would be deemed legal according to this federal law. As long as this law exists lawmakers have the right to exercise it. With several Hawaiian lawmakers up for reelection this is a bad time for loop holes in Hawaii.
Operators in Hawaii will need to work in concert to fend off this upcoming storm. Easier said than done as with most sites worldwide operator mistrust and long standing competition has not created the atmosphere for such an alliance. Regardless, an active and positive media campaign rolled out now will help fend off future attacks by anti shark diving advocates, malcontents, the uninformed, and the media whose anti shark diving bias runs deep.
"Setting the table" now will help the existing operations in the long term work through the loophole and the battles that are sure to come. Ignoring this issue and hoping it will go away is the last thing these operators should be doing.