Monday, June 29, 2009

Is It Worth "The Risk"?

Isla Guadalupe, Mexico is an ecological gem. A site with a seasonal white shark population estimated at perhaps as much as 33% of the entire western pacific base.

Why would anyone do anything at this site that could cause a shark to attack a human?

That's the question all the operators are asking this week as another promotional flyer circulated the dive world offering cage free encounters with great whites for $5900 per diver.

For operators who have dedicated almost a decade at this site, out of cage experiences with regular divers is an unwritten policy we have all agreed never to do - for reasons that time spent with these magnificent animals have taught us first hand.

Unfortunately, the nature of organic shark diving sites often finds newer operators who are willing to push the limits of shark diving encounters past sustainability. We have seen this kind of thing all over the planet.

An attack on a diver outside of a cage at Isla Guadalupe would certainly end commercial shark diving at this pristine site and perhaps end the very existence of white sharks here as well. This unique site, now devoid of a seasonal dive boat presence and left open to sport fishermen, would become a scene of mass slaughter.

Is it worth the risk? For $5900 per diver and a few images?

Out-of-the-Cage Experience

"For an additional fee 5 people will be able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being out in the blue with these incredible animals. Under the right conditions and with safety divers watching your back, you will be able to witness what it is like to be closer to a great white shark than anyone can dream of. Amos Nachoum has 28 years experience diving with Great White Sharks off Long Island New York, Australia,South Africa, and off the Farallon Islands, San Francisco. Ask about this option when you register for the expedition."

As the owner of Shark Diver I am saying it is not worth the risk.

Back in January of this year I spoke with Amos Nachoum directly and he assured myself and all the operators at Isla Guadalupe he would not be offering out of cage diving with with his divers in 2009. Full stop.

This week he sent a promotional flyer to a well known diver in our small community and even offered a discount on this same trip. The flyer was sent to me and I am posting it here. It refutes all earlier claims told to me in good faith and clearly, in no ambiguous terms, highlights cageless encounters for $5900.

Is it worth the risk?

Yes, we all know divers assume risk when encountering sharks, but what of the aftermath of an attack? What happens to the sharks? Does anyone care?

As a dive community we have responsibilities to the animals we make a living from. We should never assume "it can never happen" that is a fools bet. Putting wild predatory animals into a seemingly no-win situation with divers from the general community is both wrong and irresponsible. I believe that out of cage experiences with white sharks at Isla Guadalupe is something the general public should never do, and we as operators should not enable it.

Film and television productions with dive professionals is a different subject. Amos has what it takes to go cageless with white sharks. I have been a fan of his underwater work, he has more hours in water with big animals than many of his peers, that gives him the right to interact with these animals cageless on his own time and in his own manner - but not the right to invite a diver from the broader dive community to join him.

This blog post is, of course, one mans opinion, one operators choice. A choice made with the sharks in mind first and foremost, and an eye towards a long term future where man and wild animal benefit from close proximity and mutual understanding.

Isla Guadalupe is not a proving ground for new dive and predatory animal interactions. It is and remains one of the planets most unique dive sites. We are fortunate to encounter white sharks here and in deference to a long term future with them - we stay behind cages.

Amos and those like him should consider doing the same.

Patric Douglas CEO


DaShark said...

Oh for fuck's sake!!!!

Sadly, I'm not surprised.

Who is the operator that is providing the infrastructure for this exercise in reckless stupidity?

It will all end in tears - and when it does, say adios to Lupe.

The Mexican authorities are nervous as it is and this may well be the pretext enabling them to shut down the site forever.

Can't the other stakeholders do something to nip this in the bud?

Anonymous said...

Can't you make a case infront the of mexican goverement ?
to make cagless shark diving illegal in guadeloupe ?

Sharkin John said...

While I would love to be able to swim freely with a Great White Shark, I have not yet even seen them in person from a cage. And this little event may cancel my plans to go in Fall 2010. Maybe if I had spent time studying these animals like Ryan Johnson or Andre Hartman, then yes I would say I could free swim with them. But I am a cautious diver before I am a thrill seeker. Oh, and was it not Andre who said in the Shark Week show a few years ago that the Sharks at Guadalupe were a little more "bitey" than the ones he studies in South Africa. I think he would know.

Shark Diver said...

There was a quasi online meeting of operators earlier this year.

About the only thing anyone could agree on was the absolute opposition to commercial level cageless dives at I.G.

When it was discovered that Amos was still offering cageless options after a "stunt" he pulled last season with Jeb Corliss in the middle of a commercial dive the operators banded together.

There was some ugly talk as you can imagine with options being put on the table.

I reached out to Amos and was assured by him in no uncertain terms "on his honor" he was not going to offer commercial grade out of cage options with his divers this season or ever. Full stop.

Then this.

The final decision is up to Mexico to make, as operators with close to a decade each invested here I can say it is very untimely to have someone like Amos arrive late in the game, with a new shark plan that puts the site, these sharks, and everything we have worked for in jeopardy...for $5900 per diver.

I know his argument well. he will say, I am a professional, with lots of shark experience, the divers all assume risk, we have safety divers.

To that I say in all honesty:

"Amos, your total time with these animals on site is perhaps 72 hours. In cage and out perhaps 7-12 hours. That sir, does not qualify anyone to lead expeditions outside of cages in the manner you are proposing on a commercial level".

Frankly, I am bone tired of an industry that seeks glory, both personal and financial, at any cost.

An industry that fails to pay respect to the animals we make a living from and is willing to risk what is eventually passed off as "an accident" for the race to glory.

For the price of a few stunning images or a pat on the back at your booth at DEMA, once again I ask:


Dave and Linda said...

Amos reconsider!

Not only are you putting an entire dive site and some innocent sharks at risk you are also putting your entire company at risk as well.

It CAN happen Amos, you are not a superman.

This is high steaks diving at it's worst mate!

Anonymous said...

NOT worth the risk and shame on those who are willing to risk it all for the sake of some short term bookings!

Anonymous said...

Don't be selfish... and don't ruin it for everyone !! Imagine the supid media If there was an incident.

Tim said...

I have to agree. This action is selfish, rude, and ignorant to the long term welfare of these animals.

There is no need at all to go cageless at guadalupe and those seeking these encounters endanger everyone for monetary gain and an ego boost or sales of images to magazines!

I will be the first to lead a boycott of any magazine that posts images of these encounters at this site. This is no idle threat.

DaShark said...

Back to the operators - as that's where it starts and ends... Amos can't do it unless somebody takes him there and provides him with the necessary infrastructure.

I suppose that in order to operate in Gaudalupe, one has to dispose of some license by the Mexican Authorities.
Shouldn't be too difficult having them issue some pre-emptive caveat - or is it?

Sharkin John said...

Good point Da Shark, anyone know who is taking Amos out or is he going on his own with his Big Animals travel company?

Shark Diver said...

This is an issue for CONANP and other managing agencies within Mexico.

We can voice our "opinions" but at the end of the day this is Mexico's island and we are guests here.

That's the final word on cageless diving at Isla Guadalupe.

Amos is a newcomer to this site.

His total time spent with these animals in water is less than 12 hours, he has been to Isla Guadalupe once, last season.

On that "total site experience" he is now offering cageless dives to divers for $5900.

It is my contention that this is wrong, short sighted, and dangerous.

At least 90% of the operators at this site feel the same way and we are discussing what limited options we have at this point.

Sharkin John said...

Well 3 days and counting until you reveal the NEW site, maybe we can have better results in keeping this foolishness from happening there! And leave it to the certified experts that have put their REAL time and study into these magnificent predators to do the cageless diving! Keep up the Great Work!

gtp said...

As much as I would love to swim cageless with some of my boys like Cal Ripfin out at Guadalupe, even I think that offering the opportunity for anybody with $5,900 to go cageless is irresponsible and dangerous.

I have little doubt that with a majority of the animals out there, experienced divers would be perfectly safe 90% of the time, but it only take one time when that other 10% occurs, and then you've got a tragedy on your hands that is bad for both the divers and the sharks.

Again, I don't blindly oppose cageless diving with white sharks, but opening up the opportunity for anybody willing to shell out $5,900 is just plain crazy.