Monday, May 11, 2009

Shark Diving Industry - Crossroads Convo

Felix Leander and Wolf Leander are two of the most passionate shark divers our industry have right now. There are few shark conservation efforts they do not push or support. They also free dive with tiger sharks.

Yesterday Felix asked the industry question - How do you segregate sharks from divers without cages?

Here's our response:

Felix,

You bring up a good point. I think there's a place for cageless encounters with tigers, it has precedent all over the world and it works - when hard and fast protocols are in place.

The problems I see are three fold:

1. What happens at one site cannot be taken ad hoc to another. Each site is specific and should be developed with set protocols as stand alone sites. You can take elements from other dives and apply them - but build your own site.

2. Host countries. You have to pay attention to their desires and perceptions of "cageless dives". At the end of the day these are their sharks not ours. Build a program that works with the host country and asks for input.

3. Cageless free diving protocols and mixed use sites. I am all for development of a set aside free diving site in the Bahamas if points 1 and 2 are worked with.

In fact that is the only way it can be done, otherwise it's just an "on the fly experiment" with sharks that gets copied by folks who do not have the talent you and your dad have in the water with these critters.

The passion you two have for tigers is undisputed. The images also. Unfortunately there are also images and videos of a few 20 year old girls in bikini's floating around out there hand feeding and riding tigers - for no apparent reason.

Those images negatively charge the debate, as we have seen recently in Hawaii, and cause the great majority of people who are not as pro shark to once again look at our sport with less than admiration.

Don't forget, as far as the general public, lawmakers and media is concerned we're a bunch of shark yahoos, and that's starting with cages. You add some bikini gal with a tiger and now the conversation ends and the anti-shark diving folks start screaming.

Oh, I know the argument all to well for these encounters, "I do this to prove they are misunderstood".

Yeah. That argument coupled with a very young woman in a string bikini just serves to cement you into the "shark crazies" category. We as an industry have to pay heed to the total perception of the industry.

For too long all we see and hear as industry members are the minority who love shark diving. Being an ambassador for sharks is a good thing.

Let's start being ambassadors for an entire industry. We start losing our ability to interact with sharks at sites shut down via the perception we put forth, we also lose the ability to speak for the animals as well.

Florida is a prime example. After the ban on shark diving we now have guys targeting pregnant hammerheads for world records. Imagine if there had been 8 years of commercial shark diving in Florida with the thousands of divers run through safe programs that we might have leveraged to stop this slaughter?

The silence of that recent kill is deafening. We as an industry failed the sharks in Florida back in 2000 by losing our ability to dive with these animals and speak on their behalf. Are we going to fail them again at Isla Guadalupe, Bahamas, and Hawaii as well?

Convo starts here

4 comments:

the One called "Bitey".... said...

"The silence of that recent kill is deafening."

My friends and I have been SCREAMING about it; can you suggest where we can go, what else we can do to ensure this kind of idiocy is stopped? Because the major media outlets only care about the "wow" cover story, they do NOT care about the more complicated backstories of why we cannot do things like this, no matter how many calls, letters or emails are generated.

Can't we get a repected someone (Doc Gruber, perhaps?) to go on the local and national news and say, very succinctly:
"that may have been the very last adult great hammerhead we'll ever see; they're very rare and critically endangered (?), and if ignorant yahoos kill them like this they'll all be gone - which means the entire ecosystem is AS GOOD AS DEAD."

People like me are simply decried by the "sport" idiots... I mean, "fishermen"... as treehugging pansies fit only for ridicule. (Yes, I fully acknowledge I'm doing the same thing, but it makes me SO angry....)

Shark Diver said...

Point made a taken. In the context of 8 lost years of safe and well media managed commercial shark diving in the state your voice and your public perception would be accepted, not sidelined.

Felix Leander said...

While we mention sites that have Tigers and Whites (apex predators) - what about the feedings that occur in the Bahamas with the reef sharks in Stuart's Cove and others...I have been to the shark rodeos (with tanks) and while I felt safe, it is a different vibe to be surround by reefies. What if an accident happens there? Will they need to change and be part of this conversation as well? I know that some people consider the REEF SHARK safe and a LEMON SHARK dangerous - I hope that is not the reason why these operators and sites are not being questioned or mentioned. I think that all sharks can be potentially dangerous - even a nurse ;) - the one that bit the diver on the mouth...

Also - I would like to see diver operators be more concerned about the fishing and killing of sharks in their areas - Guadalupe is active, South Africa is now active as well - but I have not seen the operators in the Bahamas be active about Sport fishing (killing sharks) - at least not visible to the general public...how is it that someone in the West Coast has to come up with a Shark Free Marina concept and not get support from operators in shark hot spots?

Shark Diver said...

This is why I have come to respect both you and your father Felix.

Leadership. Great questions.

As I said, our industry needs some work, but people need to get out of their caves and come to the table for that to happen.

Let's start where the work is needed most then grow from there.