Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Making the Case for "Sustainable Shark Diving"

Editors Note: The folks over at Beqa Adventure Divers have one of the better shark blogs out there. What sets them apart is an ability to look critically at our industry...when a critical look is needed.

We posted a video that was sent to us a few weeks ago at what looked like a disaster in the making. A shark feed that had little to no control of the situation, and a shark that was in total control.

This is when things go bad. We appreciate and applaud the stance that that Beqa Adventure Divers is taking to make this issue "an issue". This is called industry leadership and Beqa Adventure Divers should not have to apologise for being "unprofessional".

It goes to the heart of our industry. Bad control of media=a black eye for the entire worldwide shark diving industry. Ladies and Gentlemen, we live in the world of You Tube. Events that once transpired under a cover of darkness for the commercial diving shark world now find the light and a waiting audience of millions sometimes within hours of the event.

If these events go south and a diver is hurt or worse killed the ensuing media storm sets the perception of sharks back to the stone age, and severely damages our industry. It has happened in the past and no amount of spin after the fact changes things.

We have two choices as an industry. Clean up, or get smart about media:

From Beqa Adventure Divers
Upon my last visit to Fiji, we were blessed with a visit by Scarface, always a wonderful and endearing experience, and a privilege on top of that. But this time, far from being her majestic self, she barged in fast and furious and it took several minutes for her to calm down and resume her habitual circular feeding pattern. Needless to say that we were intrigued and alarmed.

But now I think I know what's going on.

What I'm about to do may be considered to be highly "unprofessional".

Frankly, I don't give a rat's ass. Will it lead to unending aggro? Most certainly!
And for you out there who already feel the blood pressure rising: for once, please, use your brain and not your gonads. This is an opportunity for reflection and ultimately, for self-preservation - both of us as individuals and Shark Diving in Fiji in general.

So there: there's a controversial video clip out there.

Having now had to answer the fourth e-mail asking whether this is our dive (and Andrew having had to gone thru the same exercise), the answer is unequivocally:

No, absolutely not, this is not our Shark Dive by any stretch of the imagination!

I've blogged at nauseam about the need for unequivocal and stringent Safety Procedures, so I won't bother you with any further rants.

In our case, they encompass -to name but a few- the clear separation of spectators and protagonists, full dark body suits and gloves, steel mesh gloves for the feeders, safety poles to push away any trespassing Sharks and a choreographed and predictable routine so that the animals know what is expected of them.

Our Fijian staff, wonderful as they are, have a penchant for improvisation and exuberance and Andrew has been spending countless hours reinforcing the message that this is all about being professional, Respectful and safety-conscious - not some macho game by reckless village kids!

Thankfully, at BAD, the message is sticking.

As to the following, you be the Judge of it.

Hat Tip: Stunning shark image Terry Gross


DaShark said...

Thank you guys, as always your comments are highly appreciated!

Really, it's about "cleaning up", not about how to "control", or even suppress the media - the latter has been tried by countless totalitarian regimes and we all know where it has led.

Let's just hope that this remains a one-off. Hopefully, it has led to some reflection.

We all have spent countless, and all too often frustrating man-hours trying to improve on Shark Conservation and changing perceptions and it would be a crying shame if all those efforts were thwarted by a few minutes of reckless exuberance.

Shark Diver said...

In an industry seemingly filled with the lower life forms, you guys remain some of the most evolved forward industry thinkers out there.

We need your voice, and your blog. I will put down the big novelty Foam Hand that says "Beqa #1" now;)

Have a sharky day.

DaShark said...

Thanks, you too (-:

On a completely different matter, Terry Gross who took that great picture of Rusi feeding Scarface has rightly bemoaned the fact that we didn't include a caption mentioning his 2007 copyright.

Again, Terry, very sorry - won't happen again!

Shark Diver said...

We made amends and Hat Tipped.If Terry would like a full court expose on U.T of "da works of art" we'll do a feature with the links back.

Let me know.