Friday, May 8, 2009

Shark Diving Industry - Another Voice

In regards to our industry post today.

Thankfully there's some reasoned support from the guys over at BAD, in Fiji. All controversy aside someone has to stand up and start talking. If the conversation starts with "Patric is an SOB, but he has a point" then so be it. Industry leadership starts with someone taking a stand for what is ultimately right.

You say you love sharks? Start showing the leadership:

I've got to hand it to Patric, he's a brave man!

He just wrote a post that will put him in no end of trouble with many of his peers and probably, with a good part of the principal Shark media as well.

Contrary to us here, he's completely immersed in the Shark Diving Industry and I'm sure that he must have spent quite a few anxious moments pondering what effect this would have on the businesses he operates, Shark Diver and Shark Divers.

I first noticed his Blog when the Groh accident exploded in the media and although my call on the matter was somewhat different, he earned my respect and my admiration for always trying to look beyond the mere daily occurrences, for putting things into perspective and for saying it as it is, without regard for anything and anybody but the plain truth as he sees it.

Once again, he does not disappoint.

Regular readers of this Blog have noticed that we often reference each other and mostly agree about our call on the Industry.

Yes much of what we say may be controversial and we also don't shy away from pointing the finger at what we perceive to be developments, and people that are detrimental to the Industry as a whole and to us as a consequence.

The way I see it, it's part of a robust dialogue in an Industry that will hopefully self-regulate in the same way the Diving Industry has already managed to do. The alternative to that would be having the Authorities slap on a set of regulations - and unfortunately, there are already plenty of examples of how that would look like: the closure of sites and the demise of the operators.

Especially in the USA!

With that in mind, I welcome the upcoming controversy. Patric is of course spot on and 99.99% of the operators know that. But of course there's history, there are likes and dislikes, there's ego and all of that is not conducive to having a dispassionate and constructive dialogue. Yet I know that everybody will silently go over their books and ponder what is being said. Little as that may seem, it's the first step towards reforming the Industry that urgently needs to regroup and re-think the direction in which many have embarked.

This is now the watershed.

On one side, we can progress towards protocols aimed at operating sustainably, profitably and for many many years to come, for the enjoyment of our customers and for the benefit of the animals we love. The other path will lead to our perdition.

It's really that simple.

Please read Patric's post.

Halting The US Commercial Media Disaster

Alright folks it's time for "The Chat."

I know that all of the US based commercial shark diving operators read this blog. We know it, you know it - so this post is directed to you and you only.

You're killing the industry and your dive sites with media based Hara-Kiri. We have talked about this for the past year, operational video and images coming from 90% of our industry featuring stark "stupidity with sharks."

Video example.

There's been absolutely no industry leadership here in the US by any of you, in fact the US now represents the worst and the best of the worldwide commercial shark diving industry - serving up a constant stream of questionable media lapped up by major news sources. If right about now you're saying "this is not me", it probably is not, apologies.

We have at our disposal three of the most sought after dive sites on the planet. The Bahamas, Mexico and Hawaii.

Two of these sites are outside US territorial waters and unfortunately we have shown our host countries via a series of You Tube videos and shockingly poor media appearances that our operations are little more than ongoing liabilities to those host countries.

Politicians and lawmakers decide our fate with a sweep of a pen, often guided by the images and media we put forth. In the hands of a skilled anti-shark diving advocate videos of sharks ripping apart cages and divers riding tigers at sites under cease and desist orders is all it takes.

Can't you see that?

The litany of negative video and images has made 2008-9 the worst years on record for our industry and it continues. Like an alcoholic staggering away from a bar - our industry is not content to just go home and call it a night, no, we're actually rooting around in the back alleyway for beer cans with cigarette butts in them looking for that "last shark media high."


All of you profess to "love sharks." I read it all the time, on your websites, in interviews and I believe that. How does that "love of sharks" translate into sharks tearing apart cages that are then featured all over the planet on the major media - causing Mexico to institute a ban on chumming?

At what point do you discover Bahamas Tourism ministers and staff discussing the possibility of banning interactions with tigers and decide that a mainstream yahoo media push is a good idea?

Knowing that Hawaii has a long cultural history with sharks, why would anyone attempt to open operations in areas guaranteed to cause a negative media firestorm resulting in calls for a complete ban on all operations in Hawaii?

Oh, and the idea that the media is bad and that you all have been made to look foolish on accident? How old are you? Media is our lifeblood, it is what we do. If you as an operator have not figured that out yet after the years you have been in business...get out of the business.

Playing "the media victim" has a shelf life, it's a one trick pony. Eventually you and you alone have to man up and own your mess.

In case it had been lost on you, or this has never been explained to you, our clients are, in order of sustainable and lasting importance:

1. The host country
2. The sharks
3. Our divers

So, that's the "Come to Commercial Shark Jesus" spiel guys. Do with it as you see fit. Hopefully take some of it and change because unless you do, those with the big pen will force change upon you.

What happens in Hawaii, impacts Mexico and Bahamas and vice-versa.

The Florida decision in 2000 to ban shark diving is a prime example of how that change happens, and we, as the US shark diving industry are hanging by the next piece of negative video on the rest.

You can take that to the bank.

Patric Douglas CEO

Sonja Fordham Wants Your Signature

Sonja Fordham is Ocean Conservancy's Shark Conservation Program Director. We have talked about her in the past and the simply fantastic NGO she represents.

These guys do shark conservation and have our full support.

So, when Sonja puts out a call for a few electronic signatures we're more than happy to help because we know at the end of the day it will. Please join Sonja and her team in making a difference:

I'm Sonja Fordham, Ocean Conservancy's Shark Conservation Program Director, and I'm talking about "finning" the practice of slicing off a shark’s valuable fins for soup and tossing the body back to sea.

If you're like me, the thought of it makes you outraged and eager to end it. Me, I've dedicated almost two decades to conserving sharks. You, I just need you to urge your senators to pass the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 right now.

The bill, which already passed in the House of Representatives last March, is needed to end the practice of shark finning in US waters and to step up shark conservation efforts in other countries. The US passed a national finning ban in 2000, but the practice continues and is still legal in many other nations. The demand for the fins, which can sell for up to hundreds of dollars per pound, remains high for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy.

The Shark Conservation Act of 2009 closes loopholes in the US finning ban and can revitalize shark conservation efforts on a global scale. It must be passed without further delay.Please join me, and the thousands of other Ocean Conservancy supporters, by sending a powerful message to your senators.

A growing number of shark populations are in peril from overfishing and unsustainable finning — we must do better. Prohibiting the removal of shark fins at sea takes the guesswork out of determining if sharks were finned and greatly improves the ability of experts to accurately record the shark species taken. This bill can end the waste of these vulnerable animals and will contribute to our knowledge of shark population health and conservation needs.

When the passionate support of people like you combines with our policy expertise, we can end harmful fishing practices and turn the tide for sharks. We can end the wasteful practice of shark finning. Working together, we can save our sharks.

Thank you for all that you do to fight for a healthy and diverse ocean,

Sonja Fordham
Shark Conservation Program Director
Ocean Conservancy