Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shark Attack – Does Cage Diving Increase the Risks?

Discovered at the Scuba Diving For Life Blog this week:

There is a massive debate raging about whether cage diving is causing shark attacks to increase in frequency.

The cage diving detractors say that we are conditioning sharks to associate humans with food because many of the cage diving operators use food thrown overboard into the water to attract the sharks closer to the boats. This practice is known as chumming. They also make use of bait on a hook to bring the sharks closer to the cage once the divers have climbed inside.

The reasoning is that when the sharks find humans in the water at other times they will be expecting food too and this causes attacks on swimmers and surfers in the area to increase.

South Africa is at the forefront of these allegations because the cage diving industry is based on the Western Cape shoreline there and the shark attack figures show an upward trend from the time that the industry was established and become more active. There have been nine attacks in all between the years 2000 and 2005 and three of them have been fatal.

Not a great number by any stretch of the imagination but more than there were before the time of shark cage diving which plunges about 100 000 people into the ocean per year to come face to face with these huge predators.

So if you want to go cage diving anywhere in the world, should you be worried from an ethical point of view that you might be the cause of a shark attack on a swimmer somewhere in future?What The Research Says

No less than the World Wildlife Federation has done research on this issue and they report that there is no scientific link between cage diving and shark attacks.

And the Shark Trust based in South Africa concludes the same thing from their research. Not enough evidence especially seeing as though most of the attacks take place away from cage diving locations.

The city of Cape Town has also done its research since 1998 and they also conclude that those who are talking about a causal link are clutching at straws.

So from the scientific community’s point of view there is no link between shark attacks and cage diving. So Why Are The Number Of Attacks Increasing?

There is no definitive answer to that but these are some of the theories put forward by the International Shark Attacks File (ISAF) foundation: There are simply more people swimming, surfing, body boarding and windsurfing in the ocean which means that the chances for an encounter with a shark are statistically increasing.

In addition, due to recent technological advances in the manufacture of wetsuits people are able to stay in the water for longer periods.

Something else that has improved is the efficiency with which shark attacks are reported and recorded worldwide in the last decade which could also account for a seeming up tick in attacks but which in reality was an under reporting in the past.

So for the moment (there might be some scientific evidence that proves to the contrary in future) there is no link between cage diving and shark attacks so if you want to go and experience these amazing predators at close quarters you can do it with a clear conscience.

If your nerves can stand it that is. . .