Alright folks it's time for "The Chat."
I know that all of the US based commercial shark diving operators read this blog. We know it, you know it - so this post is directed to you and you only.
You're killing the industry and your dive sites with media based Hara-Kiri. We have talked about this for the past year, operational video and images coming from 90% of our industry featuring stark "stupidity with sharks."
There's been absolutely no industry leadership here in the US by any of you, in fact the US now represents the worst and the best of the worldwide commercial shark diving industry - serving up a constant stream of questionable media lapped up by major news sources. If right about now you're saying "this is not me", it probably is not, apologies.
We have at our disposal three of the most sought after dive sites on the planet. The Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii.
Two of these sites are outside US territorial waters and unfortunately we have shown our host countries via a series of You Tube videos and shockingly poor media appearances that our operations are little more than ongoing liabilities to those host countries.
Politicians and lawmakers decide our fate with a sweep of a pen, often guided by the images and media we put forth. In the hands of a skilled anti-shark diving advocate videos of sharks ripping apart cages and divers riding tigers at sites under cease and desist orders is all it takes.
Can't you see that?
The litany of negative video and images has made 2008-9 the worst years on record for our industry and it continues. Like an alcoholic staggering away from a bar - our industry is not content to just go home and call it a night, no, we're actually rooting around in the back alleyway for beer cans with cigarette butts in them looking for that "last shark media high."
All of you profess to "love sharks." I read it all the time, on your websites, in interviews and I believe that. How does that "love of sharks" translate into sharks tearing apart cages that are then featured all over the planet on the major media - causing Mexico to institute a ban on chumming?
At what point do you discover Bahamas Tourism ministers and staff discussing the possibility of banning interactions with tigers and decide that a mainstream yahoo media push is a good idea?
Knowing that Hawaii has a long cultural history with sharks, why would anyone attempt to open operations in areas guaranteed to cause a negative media firestorm resulting in calls for a complete ban on all operations in Hawaii?
Oh, and the idea that the media is bad and that you all have been made to look foolish on accident? How old are you? Media is our lifeblood, it is what we do. If you as an operator have not figured that out yet after the years you have been in business...get out of the business.
Playing "the media victim" has a shelf life, it's a one trick pony. Eventually you and you alone have to man up and own your mess.
In case it had been lost on you, or this has never been explained to you, our clients are, in order of sustainable and lasting importance:
1. The host country
2. The sharks
3. Our divers
So, that's the "Come to Commercial Shark Jesus" spiel guys. Do with it as you see fit. Hopefully take some of it and change because unless you do, those with the big pen will force change upon you.
What happens in Hawaii, impacts Mexico and Bahamas and vice-versa.
The Florida decision in 2000 to ban shark diving is a prime example of how that change happens, and we, as the US shark diving industry are hanging by the next piece of negative video on the rest.
You can take that to the bank.
Patric Douglas CEO