X-Ray Magazine posted an interactive piece on their website last week asking a very basic question about Isla Guadalupe and operations at this site.
"Should operators go cageless commercially here, and whose business is it anyway if some want to and some do not?"
I might suggest it is everyone's business.
Eco tourism with sharks is a global and regional effort. For eco tourism efforts to fail at any wild animal encounter dive site all people have to do is sit down and shut up.
I posted a response to this ongoing debate. One that just started recently after close to ten years of caged operations here. What has been missing in this lively discussion are CONANP's rules and regulations that prohibit cageless encounters with the general public, and the MX Navy ban on all chumming at the island now in it's third year.
Yes, the ban is still in place.
Shark Diver Response
In regards to 'Lupe and getting away from the debate of caged vs non caged for a moment.
Since operations began at this site in 2002 the MX Navy has since banned all chumming here. Fact is it is illegal, with a penalty of being arrested and kicked out of the Bio Sphere. The chum ban was in reaction to two cage beaches in 2005 and again in 2008.
Cageless commercial diving is on CONANPS "do not even try" list of things that operators can and cannot do. Right now until that is made law it is just a guideline. But we are all aware of it and not one operator does it except Club Cantemar and that started just recently.
Overall is Mexico happy about the operations out there?
I would suggest with the chum ban in effect by the Navy no, and that ban's knock on effect are being felt now.
'Lupe could be a shining example of eco tourism in action.
'Lupe right now is a shining example of experimenting on the fly, pushing boundaries, and switching up responses to man made stimuli by the whites here on a seasonal basis.
We cannot as operators keep changing how we interact with these magnificent animals each and every year. Hence the rules and regs set forth by CONANP which as guidelines should be respected.
People will always want to go further, experiment, and interact with animals, that is human nature. Non commercially every operator has entertained out of cage film crews out there, these are top rate divers and crews who have years of experience with sharks.
If you are talking about site longevity and eco tourism, respect for the animals come with boundaries. Set them and stick with them with regular divers.
Cageless encounters, if they are safe, should be a 14 week operation like the caged encounters.
Open them up, charge a bit less, and let's make it part of the 'Lupe experience full time.
If there is not a market for it, or the operator in question does not feel it is truly safe to run a full 14 weeks of cageless encounters with the general public, the answer to the cageless encounter question is elementary.
Let's either make this part of the equation, or stop the experiment now and by the way, let's bring CONANP Mexico's governing agency into this discussion as well. I am sure they will have some opinions on the matter that should not be ignored.
NOTE: This post is not an endorsement of cageless commercial diving at 'Lupe, my views are well known on the subject as are my efforts to get the offending parties to Come to Jesus on the matter. This post is another attempt to see reason and shine some light through a cloud of outright disrespect for wild animals, for a new Bio Sphere, and for Mexico.
More industry thought here on the subject.
Patric Douglas CEO
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