The last report we ever expected to see coming from the Maldives and the South Ari Atoll, home of an excellent regional whale shark research program, might involve commercial operations in the area threatening violence at knife point.
From the Dhivehi Observer this week tales of "ugliness on the high seas" as commercial operations come into conflict with regional researchers over whale shark gold.
This is not a new tale, shark diving operations that are in conflict with each other are the stuff of legends within the commercial shark diving industry. Up until today these conflicts usually stayed quiet and never appeared on the front page:
"MV Orion and MV Southern Cross crews have allegedly threatened to ram rival boats and stand accused of throwing heavy dive weights at tourists and dhoni crews from nearby Diva Resort. Most shockingly, in January, the crew of MV Southern Cross boarded a dhoni belonging to the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme, foreign researchers who monitor the sharks. The MV Southern Cross crew threatened at KNIFE POINT to kill the researchers unless they quit the area."
For the record we fully support the efforts of the Maldives Whale Shark Program and have done so for a few years. Small minded industry ugliness is not a new phenomenon. Calling it out for public consumption is.
The owner operators of both the MV Orion and MV Southern Cross must be made to understand that user groups have rights to animals as much as they do. A smart minded operation would seek ways to incorporate research into the fabric of its dive and marketing efforts, a win-win solution to user group conflicts under the banner of conservation shark diving.
Hopefully these well known dive operators will realize their errors before it is too late and commercial whale shark diving in Maldives becomes tainted by irreparable scandal.