Monday, December 8, 2008

Sharks and Media 101

This mornings Times Online highlights the ongoing need for both control of media within a shark site and safety protocols with macro sharks. Back in 2007 this company had another full cage breach at Isla Guadalupe. This time the shark took off the entire front of the cage system dumping a fully weighted diver into 500 feet of water.

At the time the event was written off and to this day the operation publicly looks at this event as "par for the course" when dealing with Great Whites. Meanwhile the video of the cage breach continues to grow on You Tube (500,000) garnering interest far and wide from not just the media, but government agencies in Mexico tasked with this sites enforcement, members of the Mexican Parliament, and a few NGO's whose agenda is clearly anti shark diving.

The lessons here are simple and two fold. Design and adhere to safer protocols for macro species encounters that do not rely on cage systems for "entertainment". Having white sharks bump, ram, or hit shark cages is both a disservice to the animals and inherently dangerous. Always control your media. When events like these happen there is a small window in which the operator may ask for the video or images. Videos such as these damage the credibility of all shark diving operations worldwide.

As an industry we live in a world where negative operations events (NOE's) are transmitted at light speed around the planet. These events will also sit on servers until the end of time reinforcing the image of sharks as deadly killers and no amount of post event spin will change that. As an industry whose livelihood depends on these animals, we can do better. Let's start by taking this video down and replacing it with a pro shark PSA, while at the same time ensuring these kind of events never happen again. The Times Online readership is 349,000 a day.

Editors Note: We just noticed the Sun also ran with the same story with a "Divers survive shark attack" headline. Good for sharks? Probably not.


Adam and Marie said...

I have to agree with you guys that video should never have been posted to You Tube. I am surprised Lawrence still agrees to it's being up there!

Stuart in Miami said...

That video is absolute rubbish and no shark diving operation should still be in business after a stunt like that.

RTSea said...

This is a good follow up to Patric's previous post "Sharks - Taking a Leadership Position" and it echoes several postings I have made on my blog regarding the differences between shark ecotourism and professional shark photography/videography.

Whether you are a commercial operator or just a shark enthusiast, one must beware of the image that is presented to the majority of readers/viewers of today's media.

Just look at the huge number of shark videos on YouTube and note which ones have the highest number of hits - the vast majority involve shark attacks on humans. Is it shark enthusiasts/conservationists who are watching these clips or is it the "car crash" crowd looking for a vicarious thrill and being reinforced to the idea that sharks are nothing more than malevolent man-eaters?

I posted a short video recently titled "Great White Sharks - Glimpses of Beauty", taken from some recent footage. It has garnered a little over a hundred views in a few weeks. Now if I re-title it "Shark Eviscerates Man", what do you think would happen?

This is the challenge that all shark conservationists and commercial shark ecotourism operators face if we are to make any real progress to protect these animals. If the shark operators continue to use the "dangerous thrill" factor (whether real or imagined) as their primary marketing tool, the sharks and the industry will ultimately lose.