Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shark Eco Tourism Debate

There's a long running debate on several shark related chat sites about the rise of You Tube shark abuse videos. These feature eco tour operations worldwide. This is our take on this ongoing and insightful debate. It's one our industry must address:

What I find fascinating in this conversation is You Tube and other video sites becoming the "agent of change" in peoples attitude towards the cage diving industry. Gone are the days wherein operators websites could effectively lie about their operational prowess, and or their claims to be "eco minded". One look at any video featuring a magnificent white shark tangled in a cage and you see how weak those statements become.

Now, for the first time, people can actually see what goes on with some operations and make travel choices and or take direct action based on these viral videos. Referring to ongoing cage breaches as "accidents" by some operators not only highlights continuing abuse, but also shows a high disregard for the very animals they make a living from. It's classic "do not look behind the green curtain" stuff. Shift blame to the wild animal.

Hopefully agencies that effect rules and regulations will now have the evidence they need to make change. In Mexico this very issue with one operation in particular is causing much debate at Isla Guadalupe. I welcome this debate as an operator and to wherever this debate leads us. Clearly something is wrong at this site, and there is no simple answer to it...except lasting change based on a strong desire to never see another cage breach, ever again, at this pristine site.

Cage breaches, playing heavy metal music underwater, and other operational abuses have no place in a Bio-Sphere or any Marine Protected Area. Period.

Shark diving as an eco tour activity, if it is to survive, will have to weed out those who do not treat the resource they use in a manner that terrestrial wild animal operations are bound by. The old saying "out of sight-out of mind" and the abuses some have maintained under that old saying will be ended with the continuing rise of You Tube shark abuse videos.

For those that treat animals badly under the guise of eco-tourism, you are now on notice. You can take a page out evolution for this one, "adapt or perish".

Patric Douglas CEO

No comments: