Monday, April 6, 2009

Mike Rutzen Get's a Message - Loses Point

"Oh fickle media, why doth thou play so cruelly against our shark diving industry?"

An admirable industry lament these days - especially if you are famed S.A shark diver Mike Rutzen. Seems that we are one of the few industry people to point out the growing trend of "cageless without a point". The headlong rush by members of our community to get in close and dangerous with large predatory sharks, for the sheer pleasure, and media of it.

Mike Rutzen's ongoing media line "I do it to prove these critters are misunderstood"- fails to move us.

Until today and an article in the that rang with conservation messaging worthy of any NGO:

Mike Rutzen dives with great white sharks — without a cage. While he isn’t the first to do it, he’s taken shark diving to a previously unimagined level. He does it not for fun, to win bets or for the adrenaline rush, but to prove a point. And the point is that great white sharks have a gentle side to their nature.

It’s largely to campaign for the removal of the nets that that Rutzen wants to change the image of sharks.

Great Googly Moogly, famed shark diver Mike Rutzen has a conservation message and one that makes sense - now we're talking.

For a moment, an all too brief moment, we were about to pass on a Kudo to the man and his cageless with a point message in S.A. Unfortunately we read the rest of the article and it's devolution into a bunch of ridiculous half baked industry clap trap about the "quest for tonic immobility", "communicating with sharks through body language" and a series of other half brained media nuggets that do little but marginalize the one time beauty and imagery of interactions with big predatory sharks.

Here's our take on the whole thing. If you want to do it, go for it. There's nothing on this planet, except yourself, stopping human interactions with large predatory sharks. There we said it. On the flip side, if you are going to interact with large predatory species and become a media diva in the process, do not propagate groundless "media bites" about the suppposed or imagined worth of this activity.

As Mike sums up at the end of this article all too well - once and for all destroying the initial pro shark conservation message:

"We’ve just done the longest dorsal fin ride I’ve ever ridden. It’s surreal, it’s super-peaceful. It feels like you want to stay there.”

Did anyone ask the sharks opinion of this uninvited simian fin rider? Mike, stay on message and drop the PT Barnum act. Getting the media stage with the activity is the easy part. Getting a real and lasting conservation message to stick is the hard part.


DaShark said...


I hear ’ya – but I beg to differ. For once!

Sure, there’s some unsubstantiated irrational mumbo-jumbo woven into the message: but overall, it’s genuinely pro-Shark and that’s great. One has to keep the audience’s attention somehow and if that’s what it takes, so be it! I for one was mesmerized by “Sharkman” and look forward to seeing Mike’s next documentary!
Remember, the alternative media message is the garbage we get from the mainstream and alas, Discovery: so by comparison, this is just fantastic stuff, no?

Plus, I must confess that I like and admire the guy!
He’s got some humongous cojones and he is obviously driven by a very deep and personal love and awe of the animals. He also sure seems to know what he’s doing!

Being somebody who regularly dives cage-less and in close proximity to macro predatory Sharks, I can fully relate to where he’s coming from. In order to do that and feel reasonably safe at the same time, one has to be convinced that it is feasible and these theories are one way of achieving that. For sure, one must be aware of the animals’ corporeal language as it is the only reliable indicator of their intentions.

Like many of my Shark diving peers, I’m convinced that there’s something “beyond” the Sharks’ cold, hard-wired behavioral spectrum and that it would be great if we could once manage to decipher it. Yes it’s (still) highly speculative and a regular topic of great debate with the scientists – but still, wouldn’t it be cool?

All of this with one caveat: this has to remain a personal quest and has no place in Commercial Shark Diving!

I was interested in Mike’s assessment that Tigers are “more dangerous and aggressive” than Great Whites – and yet, it seems, everybody out there seems convinced that it’s perfectly fine to go pet, ride and otherwise harass them at will.
So far, touching and grabbing Great Whites is still a big no-no in commercial Shark diving, although I understand that “somebody” wants to start going cageless.

Let’s hope it remains that way!

Shark Diver said...

We'll take that critique. I also admire what the guys does, hate his message.

The doco was first class.