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Spear fisherman kills tiger shark


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#81 oneyellowtang

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Posted 24 March 2009 - 10:48 PM

Really interesting discussion here... spent the last 1hr reading (and re-reading) some of the posts. I think the logical conclusion you come to is that many of us that practice u/w photography and build up some experience w/larger sharks end up w/a higher tolerance of close in shark behavior (than at least these spearos [won't make a generalization about all spearos]).

In getting to this point I can't help but think that when looking at a sport/activity that essentially breaks down to "kill/be killed" at the apex predator level (a mahi mahi isn't going to attack you as you try to spear it...) that this ends up being comparable to some of the recent research in gang violence.

Essentially in gang fights, the level of respect paid to opposing gang members who are armed (but w/something other than guns) is high (fear of the opponent is high), but once guns are introduced respect for the opponent decreases [fear decreases] (these are observed points from a recent LA gang task force study - the study data also showed that gang fights not involving guns had a much higher survival rate for all participants than those that involved guns... not surprising).

As underwater photographers we learn to respect sharks (and their behavior) both out of survival (ours) and for their natural beauty (however, I think we would all admit that the former is the primary reason, and the latter only comes as we get comfortable in their presence). Quick test: how many of us remember that feeling of fear/awe in seeing our first white tip reef shark? Compare that w/your knowledge now of such sharks... [at Cocos you start equating them to annoying "backscatter" if they slip into your hammer shots!.

When we dive we are essentially unarmed... would that respect for sharks change if we were armed (and could do physical harm to a shark if desired)?

Early scuba diving in the presence of both territorial and large (potentially aggressive) sharks did have divers carry powerheads as protection. The wary approach was based on both fear and a healthy respect of the unknown. Things changed as the level of experience of diving w/sharks increased...

As much as these guys argue they understand shark behavior, it seems like most of their (recent) experience has been w/sharks in situations where the shark was a competitor (for food, etc.), and they were armed. I'm now thinking their learning might be closer to what several folks on this forum have experienced (w/the same kind of sharks) if they entered the water unarmed and w/the goal of spending time in close proximity w/these animals.

BTW - this is not very different from the early Big Game safari hunting trips that as they morphed into photography trips the animals' behaviors became a little more understood (or at least somewhat more predictable given certain inputs, circumstances, etc.).

I will say that after being in the water w/2 Tiger sharks (in Tahiti) with a dead turtle carcass in the water the sharks were both more curious and more direct - but in this situation their curiosity was expressed in wanting to get close and bump us, not bite us (at least not initially - and neither of which we were going to allow).

Personally, although a Tiger shark is potentially bigger and a more voracious eater, it's the Oceanic Whitetip that I have a (possibly irrational) fear of. I understand that many u/w photographers spend time in the water w/these sharks in the Red Sea, but the one experience I've had (in the Maldives) was enough to have me look to get out of the water if approached by one of these animals (it followed us for the last 20 min. of a dive, then circled us through the ascent, and made 2 quick approaches through the group during the [shortened] safety stop - a couple of more minutes and several of us felt it was going to take a "test bite" out of something/someone)

- Matt

#82 Drew

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Posted 25 March 2009 - 12:45 AM

As underwater photographers we learn to respect sharks (and their behavior) both out of survival (ours) and for their natural beauty (however, I think we would all admit that the former is the primary reason, and the latter only comes as we get comfortable in their presence). Quick test: how many of us remember that feeling of fear/awe in seeing our first white tip reef shark? Compare that w/your knowledge now of such sharks... [at Cocos you start equating them to annoying "backscatter" if they slip into your hammer shots!

Matt I think the stumbling block is the lack of the ability to domesticate of the shark compared to dolphins, bears and lions (which Flipper, Born Free and other TV shows did awesome PR work for their causes). Instead we get Jaws 1-5, a shark that gets personal and of course highly sensationalized attack at beaches where people are suppose to be safe (re South Africa, Australia).
Mass misinformation has been perpetuated, and the truth is humans are being bitten and killed (just 2 years ago, someone I know in South Africa was killed by a bull shark. It was his 2nd shark attack and another person just died at the same beach just last week). Yet there was no mad lust to protect people by killing off sharks like there usually is in the West (eg. Hawaii, Perth). With stories like this spearo one, that fear is perpetuated and even the willingness to understand this creature is lost.

When we dive we are essentially unarmed... would that respect for sharks change if we were armed (and could do physical harm to a shark if desired)?

That was something I didn't want to bring up as I felt it'd bring up more issues than necessary. I would hope it wouldn't change a thing but that would be naive. More importantly is that we do go into the water accepting we are unarmed. Some spearos carry powerheads (essentially shotgun shells) specifically to deal with sharks. Definitely a different mindset going into the water!

As much as these guys argue they understand shark behavior, it seems like most of their (recent) experience has been w/sharks in situations where the shark was a competitor (for food, etc.), and they were armed. I'm now thinking their learning might be closer to what several folks on this forum have experienced (w/the same kind of sharks) if they entered the water unarmed and w/the goal of spending time in close proximity w/these animals.
BTW - this is not very different from the early Big Game safari hunting trips that as they morphed into photography trips the animals' behaviors became a little more understood (or at least somewhat more predictable given certain inputs, circumstances, etc.).

The spearo culture I think has grown on concurrently with photographer. Obviously the more physical and hunting nature has limited its appeal to the broader population.

I will say that after being in the water w/2 Tiger sharks (in Tahiti) with a dead turtle carcass in the water the sharks were both more curious and more direct - but in this situation their curiosity was expressed in wanting to get close and bump us, not bite us (at least not initially - and neither of which we were going to allow).

Interesting you say that. When I was shooting tigers with turtle carcasses elsewhere, there was an observed hierachy for the sharks. The bigger one got first dibs (this behavior was first noticed with great whites. Did you notice anything like that?)Then when the humans came in, the sharks checked us out in quick fashion include approaching the bite. Once they ascertained we would fight back and weren't interested in their food, they carried on feeding. Spearos on the other hand really have their food on a 'kebab' or worse, tied to their waists. The challenge is very real. With commercial spearos, whose income is derived from the fish they catch, 'survival' is now money for food on the table. I know guys in KZN who are commercial spearos who fish to sell in the restaurant market for money. They will not give up their catch and they live in one of the most heavily shark populated coasts in the world. Two of them have killed sharks to protect their catch and they've heard of more stories of such.
As in most things, the issues aren't black and white nor are there easy answers.

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#83 scubaseven

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 04:28 AM

As in most things, the issues are black and white nor are there easy answers.
[/quote]
Drew, do you mean not black and white? Seems an irresponsible thing to say. Maybe we should all adopt the KISS attitude. Things might be more black and white than they seem.

Here is an interesting pic. PS not my words. Just pulled it off a site. http://oceanicdefenc...worth-1000.html

1) a quote directly from Clasen's mouth. 2) the photo they took shortly after brutally killing the Tiger Shark.

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Edited by seven1970, 27 March 2009 - 04:30 AM.

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#84 jeremypayne

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 04:45 AM

Things might be more black and white than they seem.


Yes, you are clearly beating a dead horse ... seems perfectly black and white to me ...

:D
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#85 scubaseven

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 05:16 AM

Yes, you are clearly beating a dead horse ... seems perfectly black and white to me ...


so what is your take? Or just another fence sitter too afraid to offend anyone?
dead horse?! Its now nothing more than a piles of bones that the birds and cows are chewing on.
yes, cows will chew on bones.
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#86 jeremypayne

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 05:54 AM

so what is your take? Or just another fence sitter too afraid to offend anyone?


A guy with a camera was in the water with a honkin' Tiger Shark that made him nervous ... his buddy with a speargun came to his aid and put a spear in the head when it came too close for his comfort. The wound, in his opinion, was mortal and therefore his ethic demanded he finish the kill.

I've never been in the water with a shark like that and I wasn't there.

Drew and others have a high level of trust in their understanding of Tiger behavior and their experiences are deep ... and so, in their opinion the level of danger felt by Craig, DJ and Ryan was exaggerated and the kill was unnecessary.

That's a valid opinion and view and I am glad to have the benefit of their experiences; that said, I also have no reason to question Ryan's honesty or integrity.

But ... like I've said - I wasn't there and I don't have that kind of experience with big sharks ... so ... I'm in no position to question Craig's decision. I'd like to believe that Drew is right and furthermore that were I to find myself in such a situation that I would stay cool and that nobody - including the shark - would get hurt.

I'm also realistic ... and I know that if I was 150 feet from the boat in open water with nothing but a camera and a 12 foot shark with teeth like that was circling me, I wouldn't be upset if my friend killed it if in his opinion it was either the shark or me.
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#87 tdpriest

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 07:55 AM

... and I know that if I was 150 feet from the boat in open water with nothing but a camera and a 12 foot shark with teeth like that was circling me, I wouldn't be upset if my friend killed it...


... and that, I'm afraid is the most disappointing thing in this thread.

Typically human: enter the animal's environment, then when it reacts, assume the right to kill it. Soon it will be just us, the cockroaches, bacteria and a few viruses.

At least I'll have some photographs to remember the animals...

Tim

:D

#88 jeremypayne

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 08:58 AM

Tim,

Your "editorialized" quotation of my remarks is quite different than what I actually said - this part is critical:

"if in his opinion it was either the shark or me"

That was the case here - Craig seems to have believed that his friend was in danger.

The dispute is whether or not the danger was a real as he/they perceived it ... with some arguing that these guys are bloodthirsty liars who were out for a kill ... I think the former is debatable and the latter is a baseless accusation.

I hope you are not arguing that there is no right of self-defense.
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#89 danielandrewclem

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 09:01 AM

I think we’ve identified the two sides of this debate:

“Kill-or-be-killed” vs. “You give up your right to survival when you enter a habitat that isn’t your 'natural' habitat”

Anybody think we can resolve that debate here?
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#90 loftus

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 09:33 AM

I think we’ve identified the two sides of this debate:

“Kill-or-be-killed” vs. “You give up your right to survival when you enter a habitat that isn’t your 'natural' habitat”

Anybody think we can resolve that debate here?


I don' think that's really the debate; I don't think anyone would give up the right to defend oneself from a legitimate ' jaws open' attack. What is being debated is whether this really was such an attack and whether it could have been fended off with less lethal means.
Many of us photogs think that the Tiger could have been fended off with less lethal means, at least allowing the diver to get out of the water. What's done is done, and a few years ago I may have even agreed with the action taken.As I stated in an earlier post, if anything good can come of this, hopefully Ryan and other spearos will reconsider if they are ever again in a similar situation, and one less shark will be killed.

Edited by loftus, 27 March 2009 - 09:37 AM.

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#91 Drew

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Posted 27 March 2009 - 09:39 AM

Resolution isn't necessary as there unfortunately can never be any. But tolerance is something that can be learnt. If spearos like Hartman, Lutzen et al can learn, so can the ones who aren't as experienced. Spearos resisting the urge to pull the trigger quickly could save quite a few more sharks. Positive education does take time but it can work. How many people would've thought there'd be such an uproar about a dead shark just 20 years ago?

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#92 shark8matt

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 10:40 AM

I know I am getting into the game a bit late here but wanted to add a few things. I am a shark biologist and have been working with sharks for approximately 10 years. I have been in the water with and tagged many large tigers and know something of their behavior. I also do some spearfishing, and know several people in that sphere.

The pass shown in the video, while obviously close, did not look overly aggressive to me. That being said, shark behavior in open blue water tends to be dramatically different from shallow areas. There have been many references to Tiger Beach in this thread and I have to say that while it is a nice place to take pics (I was lucky enough to go there 4 times last year) it is a poor place to observe natural shark behavior. Those sharks are habituated to feeding and are extremely docile. A shark in the pelagic environment, especially one that sees something moving around near the surface, will probably behave in a predatory mode. I have no doubts that the tiger initially approached ryan in a predatory mode. I also believe Ryan behaved in exactly the way he should have - holding his ground and not acting like prey. The tiger probably should have lost a lot of interest at this point, though I am sure would hang out to see what happens. In a blue water environmnet, in which there is a dearth of food, sharks and other predators have to be aggressive so as to not miss out on the few food opportunities they may encounter. In any case, I agree with the others who said that non-lethal aggression could have dealt with this shark and Clasen's actions are questionable.

In reference to spearos understanding sharks - I know the moderator of spearboard personally, and he has helped immensely through personal time, use of his own boat, and supply of barracuda bait for a large shark research project off Jupiter Florida. He has even posted many shots of the lemons, bulls, and hammerheads that were tagged and released through the project. I am sure he would be very upset to see sharks speared in his own forums but he also understands that it will happen. There are a lot of things that spearos do that are irresponsible (and many things photogs do as well). I can still go on dives in south florida and find spears in goliath grouper a protected species. I still also see photogs laying on coral to get an image. At the end of the day, we need to develop a better conservation ethic so people begin to see these actions as unacceptable.

Finally, to address a point about feeding. I was involved in a study in the Cayman Islands in 2002-2004 on stingrays. We had two study groups, the fed rays at sandbar, and wild rays from other locations. The experimental design was set up to measure differences in the two groups with the assumption that any variation seen between the two groups would primarily be a function of the supplemental provisioning by the tourists to the fed group. A manuscript is in press, and while I can't give specifics, we found stark contrasts in the biology and ecology of these two sets of rays. Growth, reproduction, diurnal activity pattern, and population density all showed large statistical differences among groups. To my knowledge this was the first study dealing with feeding a marine animal and the results show that feeding can have some effects. I also observed other things - the fed rays still showed some foraging behavior, and were not dependent on the feeding - even in an excessive site like Grand Cayman. Stingrays are generalists - the raccoons of the sea so to speak - and will take to feeding very easily. There have been some points as to the changing of sharks from predators to foragers - this is not totally accurate. Sharks are supreme opportunists - and many forage naturally. Just place a whale carcass in any ocean and almost every shark in a several hundered km radius will find their way there. I am not against shark feeding - though the major problem I see with these interactions is from the human side. To fully realize the power of putting someone in the water with any animal they must be given some information/education on the experience.
"Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand" - tennyson
I have worked with both stingray-tourist interaction and my main study subjects are whale sharks which have heavy doses of ecotourism involved. At the end of the day, our mission should be to really dig deeper, and figure out how to involve people in the process - something that as underwater image and film makers I hope we all aspire to do...

Sorry if that was a bit too soapbox for some and hope it added something to the conversation...

cheers!

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#93 loftus

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Posted 07 April 2009 - 11:47 AM

Matt,
Your point regarding Tiger Beach is well taken; and of course much of the 'safety' factor of Tiger Beach is the fact that it's shallow and most interactions are on the bottom. Having said that though, I would question how one makes the assessment that a shark's intentions are aggressive or not. It may sound sound simplistic but my understanding of shark behavior would be that sharks approach potential prey such as a diver in the water in two phases - an exploratory phase, during which they approach, explore and possibly bump the target - and then an attack phase at which time the shark actually attacks, bites with nictitating membrane down etc. At some point the shark 'decides' that the prey is both attractive and potentially attackable. (Not sure if that's a good word). This two phase approach would seem to be the same whether the shark is at a place like Tiger Beach or in open water. My point being that if I were to make myself easily vulnerable even at Tiger Beach, I think it is likely that I would be bitten. By the same token, if I protect myself, and or deter the shark, even if it is in open water - it is most likely that it would not persist. One thing that is pretty obvious when one observes the speed and power of large sharks, is that if they really wanted us they could take us any time they want. Or for that matter, a pack of reef sharks could easily take me apart if that was their intention.
Am I wrong in this assessment, or is there something I should be particularly aware of when I am in the company of sharks that should make me think that the shark has serious intentions of attacking me as a diver? Is the speed of approach important, pectoral fins down? What are signs of aggression vs being curious with the potential for aggression if I'm considered a good meal?

Edited by loftus, 07 April 2009 - 12:13 PM.

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#94 shark8matt

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Posted 08 April 2009 - 01:29 PM

loftus -

To make an attempt to address some of your points... I have only heard one man say that he "knows what a shark is thinking" and that's why he "will never be attacked" - and he was attacked shortly after saying that. Sharks like all wild animals can be very unpredictable. That being said they are also fairly intelligent animals - much more so than many people give them credit for. The major difference between a place like Tiger Beach and open blue water is the immediate and available food source. Tigers and most other sharks will have little to no interest in you as a prey item when presented with readily available bait. They have several hundred million years of evolution talking in their ear to spend the least amount of energy in obtaining food. This is one of the reasons why sharks are so easily facilitated with feeding interactions. I reiterate my point from my other post that someone said it was somewhat unnatural for sharks to be scavengers, while I disagree and say every predatory animal is a scavenger who simply has to exert energy to actively take prey when no food is available to scavenge. At Tiger Beach the sharks are relatively docile and easy to be close to as they make the distinction between you as a large moving animal and the bait which they readily eat. There is very little chance any of the sharks would bother wasting the energy to even bite you (barring a mistaken competitive fight for the bait) when they can simply swim up and take bites of an inert bait block. In blue water they can behave radically different, as they have to take advantage of food opportunities which can be few and far between. In this environment they will readily exert energy - even to attack a larger prey item, as they are not sure of when another food opportunity may swim by.
Tigers especially, and most sharks in general, prefer to attack from below and behind and animal. Maintaining direct eye contact is important - both for keeping an eye on what the shark is doing and for communicating to the shark that it is seen and therefore the element of surprise is eliminated. I have not personally seen a tiger make any dramatic swimming movements typical of other sharks before attacking (arched back, down pointed pec fins etc). The location in the water column is also very important. At tiger beach you are sitting on the bottom - but even there if you hang in midwater or snorkel you will draw much more interest from the sharks. Tiger sharks have sea turtles as an important component of their diet and tend to attack these animals while they are getting a breath on the surface. If Ryan was bobbing near the surface (and in blue water), I would tend to expect a shark to approach with some amount of interest. It may have approached quite rapidly and closely, though even that doesn't mean it would attack. Needless to say, that is an intense situation and I believe the best answer would have been a retreat to the boat.
Most tiger attacks are surpise/ambush style attacks where the shark isn't seen until the attack occurs. However, being in the water with a large tiger can be dangerous - especially because a tiger does not do any real displaying before an attack. Tigers, along with a few other species (notably bulls, whites, oceanic whitetips) are large and can be aggressive and should be handled carefully. I tell people they really shouldn't fear sharks - but everyone should have a healthy respect for them as a large predator. In most cases as a diver, if you are not ambushed you will be dealing with sharks in a mode of curiously circling and building up their courage to come check you out. If you assert yourself, which communicates to a shark - "hey - I am another large predator and you need to respect me" then the shark will usually back off. If they get too curious, you need to establish physical contact - bump the shark with a camera, speargun etc. - in effect saying "ok - that was too close - so this is your warning not to do it again". If the shark is persistent, or multiple individuals are starting to test you - I recommend opting for an organized retreat.
I hope that addresses some of your questions ...

cheers!

- MDP
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