Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shark Cowboy - Liar or Looney?

November was a not a good month for shark researchers and extreme media gaffs.

From the Farallones to Australia and now Richard Fitzpatrick the perception of qualified shark research is being modified by a few within the community who have chosen to seek the media limelight.

"Riding a tiger shark is awesome, said Mr Fitzpatrick, who left Cairns this week on a diving expedition tagging sharks in the Coral Sea."

Richard Fitzpatrick represents a new and startling brand of shark researcher, those that do extreme things with animals and use research data to justify their actions, leading many to question the work being done.

"He admits most people think he is either "a liar or a loony" when he tells them he lassoes sharks for a living."

Like commercial shark diving, invasive shark research practices are under scrutiny. There are some who might argue that "the ends justify the means" with invasive shark research.

We maintain reality television shows and basic stunt work with sharks have no place within shark research community and media gaffs like this week with Richard Fitzpatrick only lower the bar for others who perceive shark research as a hybrid entertainment entity.

Shark Cowboy, Liar or Loony?

To Mr. Fitzpatrick and those who would emulate him, we would suggest the answer to that question might be both.

Invasive shark researchers seek media at their own peril, this weeks offering once again delivers a black eye to the entire effort.


DaShark said...

Having followed what Richard does, I consider him a good guy who does important research by using ethical procedures and who always tries to convey a pro-Shark message.

You may want to check out and other related links.
Compare that with the recent antics of Domeier (looks like it's essentially the same kind of tag)& you can see that Fitzpatrick appears much more concerned about the well-being of the animals.

Where I agree with you is that he should refrain from gratuitous antics, especially on camera, and watch what he says as he just leaves himself wide open for criticism.

Unknown said...

Hi Shark Divers,

What a fantastic article, I totally agree, I can think of a few other "scientific research" and " shark conservation projects" which fit the glamour bill and aid individuals in an ego massaging media expose. Indeed I atended one such "project" as a volunteer for some considerable time in a non paying seniour post and it was totally apparent that most of the "data collection" (using unresearched methods) was simply a pretense to squeeze money out of volunteers and fuel the ego drive. There was also a similar lack of attention to correct divng practices.

It's a mistake more individuals seem to be making in a world where habitat preservation (seemingly lacking glamour) should be at the forefront, not ego's. I think any responsible diver should understand that awquatic animals are not DPV's (diver propulsion vehicles). The individual in question, in my opinion, needs some additional training and should consider a total rethink of dive ethics.

Why should we need to consider such attention seekig escapades anyway? I can see a human every time I walk out of my front door. I personally am not interested in a photo of one hanging on to such an awesome creature.


Horizon Charters Guadalupe Cage Diving said...

In today's hyper media environment how long do you think it will be before a production company wants to shoot a 10 week show called "The Shark Cowboy?"

RF is undoubtedly a good field researcher.

He is also a lousy "media guy" who is farming out a bogus notion that riding sharks and basic stunt work with sharks is actually science.

It is not, and nothing good can come of it with the next three guys trying to emulate him.

Media hits like this one should be peer reviewed by those who decry the hybridization of entertainment and invasive shark science.

Where does it end?

I have a good feeling I know where it began.

DaShark said...

Now here's a thought: peer-reviewed Shark media!

Not gonna happen anytime soon, for the all-to-obvious reasons - but still, something worth keeping in mind!

Maybe a first step would be to always hire a media adviser, and I would happen to know just one such guy!

Other than that, I fully agree!

Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm really sorry but perhaps if we had better role models on camera then we wouldn't have such bad practices in the future? Aren't those days of Cousteau long gone where "researchers" did "field work" and marine media expose utilising similar stunts?

Call me a killjoy but I fail to see, wether on camera or not, the meaning or benefits of riding marine life and fail to see how this promotes or could possibly at all be proper methodological research with minumum intrusion on willd animals. I think it's a fin in the wrong direction and scientists need think a bit more about being better role models for future generations and appreciate a more scientific focus instead of wanting to be the next 10 week show with an adrenaline junky, sensationalistic low grinding VO.
What about Fred Buyle, he's an interesting example... or Simon Oliver