The $200 million dollar international shark diving industry has one or two seasoned voices who frequently try and replace many of our industries conventional wisdom's with "plain sense".
One of these is Da Shark from BAD's Blog. A regular feature and well known to 10K of you who visit us here each month.
This week a video from the Bahamas has fired up a multi pronged conversation about the "Ethics of Shark Diving". A thread starter which may have been misnamed as the video brings up a host of issues not related to ethics. As always we tend to agree with Da Sharks take on this...with one caveat.
Operations like the one featured on this video have to start somewhere. They are usually inspired by others with images and video to "one up the old guard". Had this site in the Bahamas been locked down with a set of "unmoving protocols" from day one and not promoted as the "Tiger between the operators legs" site or the "Night time diving with Tigers site"-we might not be here discussing this today.
While I agree with 99% of Da Sharks thoughts on this, our industry must be ever vigilant for The Great Slide. In the ever increasing rush to offer closer encounters with macro shark species we are loosing the thin margin of error that is the difference between safe shark encounters dictated by the operation, and relying on a predator with a brain the size of a walnut to "make the call" during an encounter. We as an industry are often resetting the goal posts of encounter safety while the game is still in play.
I personally do not subscribe to the pervasive school thought that says "we have had 300+ safe encounters-so this is fine". It is never fine, not with macros. Ever. We learn from them each and every time we encounter them and we should never push for danger close encounters. That is the essence of The Great Slide, eventually we will get to the final point where the animals push back. It has happened, it will happen, and it continues to happen.
Exploring the "outer limits" of macro shark encounters on a commercial level is a fools bet.
It is unfortunate that we have lost the one voice that could have made a difference here. Credibility in this industry is everything and people do listen to those few voices who have the spotlight (we're not one of them) but those few voices need to maintain the veneer of safety.
You lose that in our industry and you lose your ability to guide a dive sites natural progression and others with your wisdom.
Is it not enough to "witness" these animals in all their grace and elegance? Do we need to touch them and ride them as well? Do photographers really need to shoot inside a Tigers mouth? Do we need to throw pokey-sticks at them? Where does it end, where do we call the game and set the safety goal posts?
2008 was a troubling year for the industry. It was also one of "awakening". Since we started this blog a year ago we have heard from many in the industry who have reached out to say "you know, I was just talking about that the other day".
We're in this together. We may not like the fact we're in it together, but I'll take the recognition that we are in it together as a good first start.
Patric Douglas CEO