|Surfing on a tied up whale shark?|
This story is more about a net caught shark at a local beach within a whale shark tourism zone.
Unfortunately the animal was badly treated and other images have surfaced of a regional commercial whale shark program in dire need of an overhaul.
We've have been talking about commercial shark diving since 2008, and this story making the rounds is just another another in a long stream of the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly for our industry.
Make no bones about it we have been fiercely pro-commercial shark diving since our inception 12 years ago. Fundamentally, done right, shark diving's net benefits far outstrip any arguments against it.
But as we were reminded just a few weeks ago when another stunningly bad video surfaced from Tiger Beach, Bahamas all of this, the entire commercial shark diving industry remains an ongoing 20 year experiment.
Unless you factor in some real mavericks like Ron and Val Taylor, who showed us the way but never got down on a commercial level and a few from S.A and AU. Commercial shark diving as we know it today, is very new. What was once an extremely niche tourism marketplace has gone mainstream.
Guadalupe Island is just over a decade old, ten short years, and unfortunately there's still no "Shark Diving for Dummies" hand guide out there.
So operators learn by doing, failing, and hopefully growing. Some are better at this than others, some are in it for the associated fame and a few back slaps at DEMA, others have become self professed Professional Shark Divers (I know, right?), while still others have carefully blended long term shark conservation with operations seeking the Holy Grail of wild animal tourism - sustainability.
The fact is this is still an experiment and in many ways an ongoing one.
There's always room for improvement but as Da Shark points out, these improvements need to be grounded in set animal protocols. 20 years later we have learned much, yet new operations make basic fundamental mistakes every year.
Right now much of the shark diving world is still a wild west affair. We all know it.
So enough said. You can scream all you want about this image, write petitions, chatter, but at the end of the day it comes down to respecting the animals and what we as an industry consider respect for a wild animal.
It's an ongoing debate that will only get louder as the industry matures and grows and the experimentation with sharks finally reaches it's natural conclusion.
We're getting there but not without a few bumps along the way and in this hyper connected media world we live in what happens on the other side of the planet impacts us all in ways we have yet to realize.
Food for thought.