Monday, December 15, 2008

ABC news with Luke Tipple: Great White Shark cage accident at Guadalupe Island

From Luke Tipple's Blog this week. A look into the firestorm of media surrounding Isla Guadalupes best documented and unnecessary cage breach. We happen to agree with Luke's position and while unpopular to some of the smaller minded in our community "who just see personal gain" what was needed to be said about this sad event, was said, and that takes leadership.

What neither the shooter of this video, who last week could be seen tastelessly trotting around signed pieces of shattered cage on national television, nor the operator seem to comprehend is the blow back from this event in Mexico.

This cage breach video and subsequent posting on You Tube directly resulted in a ban on all chumming at the island in 2008.

Unfortunately it does not end here as the national media in Mexico now has this story and you can rest assured there will be much more in terms of anti-shark diving sentiment from Mexico in the coming weeks and months:

Recently I was asked to give my comments on the “Great White Shark Accident”, a viral video that gained worldwide attention after heavy YouTube exposure. The video depicts a large (around 14-15 feet) White Shark ‘breaching’ a the cage of a well known and respected cage diving operator at Isla Guadalupe. My comments were picked up by ABC news as you can see in the following video:

The response was overwhelming and rather interesting. It is the opinion of some people in the shark diving industry that nothing should have been said about ‘operator error’, effectively the strategy was to simply hope that the issue would go away. I find that a rather difficult plan to follow when the divers in question have since appeared on the nationally aired ‘Today Show’ and their video has hit ever major news desk in the world. That includes the front page of Australian and British newspapers not to mention many morning and evening talk/news shows.

It is my opinion that a video such as this, released without due care to follow up PR, can only be detrimental to the shark diving industry. Major news websites and blogs have gone so far as to suggest that shark (cage) diving is “dangerous and terrifying”, “training sharks to eat people”, even claiming that accidents like this occur with regularity.

As an industry professional and passionate supporter of sustainable eco-tourism (in this case shark diving) I cannot abide these comments. Our industry regularly takes abuse from people who do not understand what it is we do. The shark diving industry is worth 200 million dollars annually worldwide and in many cases is responsible for helping police and protect dive sites and endangered animals from damage while channeling much needed money into research and conservation. There are certainly operators who could manage their businesses in a safer or more ethical way, but that is a subject for another discussion.

As far as Guadalupe goes the fact remains, in 2008 the Mexican government sent their Navy to enforce their new ‘no baiting’ guidelines. This was partly influenced by videos such as the ‘cage accident’. This decision is a threat to our industry and tourism operations, all of which help support local research and contribute funds to the Mexican economy and Guadalupe’s conservation.

The accident was an isolated incident that is extremely unlikely to happen again. Claims that the animal was at fault have no relevance whatsoever… the explanation is simply this:

This predator reacted to a stimulus which was placed too close to an obstruction giving it little to no time to react or turn to avoid collision. That’s it.

With a little care about the message we put out our industry could avoid a lot of the drama that it perpetuates. I stand by my comments on air as in the end I’d rather see an endangered and beautiful species of animal get off the proverbial hook for a change, if that means someone admits a one off mistake, so be it.


Jim in La said...

The only person I have seen trying to profit from this whole mess has been Patric Walsh. In his rush to get in front of the national news media he has failed to realize the Mexicans banned chumming at this site because of this video!

Must be because he's newly certified as no real diver would consider something as foolhardy as this.

One last thing Mr.Walsh, Great White sharks do not have nictitating membranes. You may want to look this up before your next nationwide interview.

dana burkhardt said...

Patrick Walsh is a newly certified diver.

Tipple is an industry professional.

This is Luke's viewpoint based on hundreds or perhaps thousands of man hours with big sharks over many years.

Walsh's main credit is the fact he was involved in one of the industries worst cage breaches.

I'll take Tipple's viewpoint. Walsh can go get dive #8 under his belt and hopefully (if we're all lucky) go away.