Monday, March 16, 2009

The Today Show - Shark Media Gone Bad

"When you play with hungry can pay the price"

Recently we blogged about the "Sin of Media", the promotion of negative shark media to main stream sources for personal gain. We have also blogged about the main stream medias bias as primarily anti-shark.

There are very few credible shark diving operators that do not understand this basic fact and yet this morning one of the worst shark diving pieces to air on national television was seen by an estimated 4 million viewers, anti shark diving advocates, the Bahamian Government, and others.

We are not content to sit by and entertain the thought that this operation did not know who The Today Show was, or had no media control over this piece. The number one rule with mainstream media is, if you are not sure, do not do it.

The Today Show, not surprisingly, introduced this piece with one of the worst cage breaches to have ever been caught on tape, and then ended this piece with the Markus Groh shark diving death. Once again framing an entire 200 million dollar global industry in an extreme and negative light.

The result this morning was an absolute black eye for the entire shark diving industry.

Extreme Shark Diving

The Extreme Shark Diving agenda hurts our industry. It it indefensible. It skates on a thin veneer of legitimacy and when inevitably it fails, and someone is bitten or killed by a shark, our industry and those in it who have moved past the experiment of Extreme Shark Diving are harmed. Not to mention the perception of sharks in general, thrown back to the stone age as little more than ravening killers.

As each piece of recent video seen on this mornings Today Show attests, these negative shark diving elements just serve to add to the argument against shark diving. There's a theme here, and it is our own industry members who are providing the basic framework for this theme. The time for this has ended.

If operators want to offer Extreme Shark Diving encounters they are entitled to, as are the divers and photographers who are drawn to these encounters. What they are not entitled to do is take the rest of the industry down with them by propagating media that harms the industry regionally and internationally.

The Bahamas

In 2006-7 the Bahamas Dive Association sent a Cease and Desist order to all operators at Tiger Beach and vessels that used this site - the details were specific. The operators who come in from the USA are guests in the region, nothing more or less. It boggles the imagination, that even after an operator shark death, US operations have not only failed to acknowledge the C and D but have ramped up extreme operations to a level that is clearly not sustainable.

Worse yet they are promoting these activities on national television effectively thumbing their noses at the Bahamas Government and Tourism Bahamas whose lively hood depends on tourism and whose balance of dollars comes not from US based shark diving operators but from a multi million dollar hotel industry.

Commercial shark diving operations are built on three foundations. Commercial encounters, regional conservation efforts, and regional politics. As a commercial shark diving operator you ignore regional politics at your own peril.

Dangerous Shark Species Interaction Warning Letter 2006-7

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


Big Dawg Divers said...

The Bahamas will shut this site down because of a few small minded guys who are going Darwin.I am surprised it is still going today.

Sarah and Stephan said...

Let's see, scuba gear, check, sharks, check, chum bucket with pieces of fish all over the place, check, small piece of PVC pipe for protection, check, sharks all over the place, check, one very green reporter with questionable dive skills, check.

What's wrong here? This looks like the ultimate set up for a disaster to me!

Ricardo CICSA said...

They (NBC)ham fisted that story and I really liked the Jaws music at the start. WHAT was the operator thinking? that this was going to be a fun fluff piece?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they did not know NBC was going to make a hash out of it?

Tom said...

Yeah I am pretty pissed off about this. NBC totally ran with their story and made these guys look like clowns. I also believe the operator Eli had a lot of control over the final piece.

The Bahamas will be unhappy about this for sure. I thought the plan was after Groh all of us were going to keep a low profile what the hell happened to that!?

Felix Leander said...

This goes beyond the operators - what about the people that filmed this?

Also, to Neil Watson's point - how do you classify a lemon shark as dangerous and a Caribbean Shark as safe in diving terms? How many Tiger sharks have had incidents with divers compared to Caribbean Reef sharks (spear fishers included)?

Seeing what goes on in this industry is sometimes VERY depressing...

Shark Diver said...

Hi Felix,

Here's what I would like to see. A free diving section at this dive site and protocols written up and agreed to by the Bahamas.

I would also like this site to get "official" with agreements to animal interactions and some serious fines for the few "miscreants" who use this site as a personal playground i.e The Belgians.

You know what the Bahamians are thinking right now, and it's up to us to lose this site or win it for the future.

Today that future just got a lot dimmer. I doubt anyone in the Bahamas will be jumping for joy over what they just saw.

One thing I can tell you this is not an "operator thing" on this end. This is a basic what-makes-sense thing, and right now we're pretty much gob smacked at that piece from NBC.

I thought the industry could not possibly put out any worse shark media. Today I was proved completely wrong.

If you have any pull start pulling, the old straw that breaks the camels back - just hit the camels back.

Regardless of your personal views towards the BDA or Neal Watson that C and D is still in force and always has been.

All images and video to the contrary just serve to shut this site down.

Felix Leander said...

Patric - as you know my dad is going through somethings at the moment - personal health - I am in Brazil with him - will mention what happened, but right now he has to focus on getting well...

I hope he is on his feet soon.

adam from nz said...

LOL I think Tom said it best the video did not hurt the industry as made those guys look like crazed shark divers.

RTSea said...

Having spent considerable time in the film industry/network broadcasting, I can tell you that Eli had no control or say on the final outcome of the piece. Having said that, did Eli enter into this thinking that NBC, knowing their track record, would have done otherwise? Only if he's dumb as a post.

This piece was never meant to be anything more than a promotion of thrill seeking reckless behavior - and everybody involved knew it. But that's the kind of activity that some operators are trying to cash in on, to the detriment of the industry's long-term future.

Most of the viewers watching the piece I'm sure reacted with "Man, they're completely crazy!" And to the macho thrill seekers watching, on whom these operators are trying to capitalize, they say, "Man, they're completely crazy! Where do I sign up?!"

For those of us trying to promote responsible shark ecotourism as a means of enlightening the general public, this is the last thing we need.

dave simmons said...

You guys will never change the views of the minority. They are hard core. They only learn when something goes terribly wrong.If that Today Show video is any indication it will.

Any attempt to point out what they are doing wrong only serves to make them even crazier.

Time is not on their side and media stories like these will just serve as a reminder of what went wrong. I would not like to have a video like that hanging over my operation during the wrongful death lawsuit;)

Bahamas Diving said...

This is garbage! As a guy who dives with sharks all over the planet this is NOT what happens out there and these idiots DO NOT represent the industry!