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Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas


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#61 alaity47

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 04:08 PM

And its the huge risk associated with it that makes it so cool.


I've seen this point made quite a few times, and I just want to chime in - the risk factor is NOT the appeal for many of us. I'm pretty risk-averse in general, but I would absolutely love to go on this sort of dive. The few chances I've had to be in the water with big sharks have been amazing experiences.

I would dive despite the risk, not because of it, and I know a lot of people feel the same.
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#62 bkuner

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 07:07 PM

My thoughts and prayers go out to Markus Groh and his family. I would also like to give my support and prayers to Jim Abernethy and the staff at JASA. I have been on the Shear Water on two trips and Jim and staff have a very well run and safe operation.

#63 craig

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 07:24 PM

I don't think you're giving sharks enough credit.

No, Herb, I do. I'm well aware of all that you mentioned not just with sharks but with groupers and other predators. I've witnessed it first hand. It wasn't me that made the "very unlikely" comment at all. I think they are remarkably adaptable.

Christian, there's a lot confusing when you combine what you've just said with what you've said before. It doesn't matter though, all that matters is what you are trying to say.

I think it's clear that sharks learn but in every case they will do what's in their best interest and that's primarily eating and not being killed. Boats that chum the water but don't bait I suspect are a rare or nonexistent breed. Every time I've experienced chumming, although very few times, there has always been bait as well. Furthermore, I don't think sharks will ever lose the connection between blood and food since it will be constantly reinforced regardless of what we do as divers. We are lucky that sharks rarely target humans as food.
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#64 echeng

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 08:11 PM

Did anyone see Anderson Cooper tonight? I hear it was a big turnaround in the media.
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#65 Ila

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 08:49 PM

I am very troubled by the accusations of blame I'm coming across in the press. It seems to be one of the more reprehensible qualities of human thinking to lay blame whenever possible. This was an accident. Nothing could have foretold it.

As you all know, there are many dangers when one dives. The main one is drowning, as well as the changes in the body due to pressure changes that can be fatal or cause fatal accidents.

When I was learning to dive, three divers just disappeared, and no one knew what happened to them. It was thought that they drifted too deep and couldn't make it back to the light of the surface. Since then I have heard from time to time of other similar disappearances, of people apparently fascinated by the deep and failing to return. It would be interesting to compare the statistics on divers lost to drowning, and other dive related accidents, and those lost to sharks.

The other thing is that each shark is an individual, and each that I have known here, (reef sharks), has shown not only a different pattern of spending time, but different ways of treating me. Only two out of about 600 that I met closely enough to properly identify, were worryingly aggressive; one showed up in my area repeatedly, (for four months each year) and I really had to watch her. She had an influence on the others, too. I had to adjust my actions at times according to whether this one shark was present--she would charge repeatedly, ignore the gentle-hand-on-the-head approach, zoom past my ear from behind, and orbit my head at lightspeed for minutes at a time. Nearly all those susceptible to her influence were females in their first year of reproduction. So hormones were influencing their behaviour on top of each shark's natural "personality."

Maybe Markus Groh had the misfortune to meet that one most aggressive bull in the area. At any rate, sharks do not all act the same. Its interesting that the shark bit his extremity, as in a sort of warning slash, rather than going for the body core.

My deep sympathies go out to Jim...

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#66 laz217

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 09:58 PM

There is a unity and joy that is shared between divers that compares to that of a loving family or the best of friends. It is difficult to describe it in words but our bond is united by our love affair with the ocean. We are passionate to levels beyond the understanding of those who have never experienced the underwater world and so we are compelled to become ambassadors of our blue planet until our final breath.

And thus nothing brings a more somber feeling to our hearts than to lose a fellow diver. Whether we knew him or not, we know we have lost a friend -- a member of our diving family. It is with great sorrow to hear of the passing of our friend, Markus Groh. While we may not experience the pain and sorrow of his family we share in that pain. For there is no doubt that Markus’ spirit and passion is our own.

It is difficult at times to explain why we choose to put our very life at risk when we dive. But there is no question in our minds that when we dive and experience the magical splendor of the underwater world that is when we feel the most alive. We know subconsciously that our next breath could be our last but we accept it and would even be thankful to have parted this Earth doing what we love.

May your spirit roam as free as the sea, Markus.

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#67 zippsy

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 12:08 AM

..... This was an accident. Nothing could have foretold it. .....

:) ;) chum for sharks. sharks arrive. sharks bite a diver.

actually, I think it's happened before. I could have foretold it. I may not have been able to say which day, location and victim but I'm not a fortune teller. Just a guy with a little common sense and a healthy respect for nature.

BTW, I'm not a "Jaws fearing" diver. I swim towards sharks when I see them but, sadly, those occasions are getting less frequent. With stories like this coming out, I also fear the frequency of sightings will be further reduced.

#68 John Bantin

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 02:45 AM

As Peter Benchley once told me, the shark is the perfect monster for most people because they know little about them, can attribute any behaviour they like to them, and yet they will not follow them upstairs to bed at night! Ignorance is man's greatest passion so it is inevitable that we shall now witness an outpouring of ignorance. Has anyone yet said that the only good shark is a dead shark? It's predictable. Stand by!

Oh, it was an embolism? Stand by for the call to ban scuba diving!

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#69 loftus

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 04:55 AM

:) ;) chum for sharks. sharks arrive. sharks bite a diver.

actually, I think it's happened before. I could have foretold it. I may not have been able to say which day, location and victim but I'm not a fortune teller. Just a guy with a little common sense and a healthy respect for nature.

BTW, I'm not a "Jaws fearing" diver. I swim towards sharks when I see them but, sadly, those occasions are getting less frequent. With stories like this coming out, I also fear the frequency of sightings will be further reduced.

The fact that this incident occurred in the presence of chum, does not make it any less an accident, just as accidents happen with mountain climbing or other 'risky' activities. Jim Abernathy has incredible respect for nature and common sense. In any activity such as this the responsibility of those involved is to manage the risk to every degree possible, as Jim Abernathy does. There are those who would consider even scuba diving to be risky behavior (including my life insurance provider).

Edited by loftus, 28 February 2008 - 05:35 AM.

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#70 loftus

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 05:03 AM

Did anyone see Anderson Cooper tonight? I hear it was a big turnaround in the media.

I would like to see this, if there is any way you know of to see a rerun? I have a lot of respect for him.

Edited by loftus, 28 February 2008 - 05:04 AM.

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#71 PRC

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 05:05 AM

As Peter Benchley once told me, the shark is the perfect monster for most people because they know little about them, can attribute any behaviour they like to them, and yet they will not follow them upstairs to bed at night! Ignorance is man's greatest passion so it is inevitable that we shall now witness an outpouring of ignorance. Has anyone yet said that the only good shark is a dead shark? It's predictable. Stand by!





Well put John.

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#72 Drew

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 06:05 AM

Oh, it was an embolism? Stand by for the call to ban scuba diving!

John, apparently it was loss of blood from his wounds that killed him... at least according to Meredith Verieina of the Today Show who quoted the Miami-Dade Country Medical Examiner. There was no embolism.

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#73 craig

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 06:51 AM

The fact that this incident occurred in the presence of chum, does not make it any less an accident, just as accidents happen with mountain climbing or other 'risky' activities.


Being an accident doesn't mean that nothing could have foretold it either. If you die attempting Mt. Everest it may well be an accident, it may well be tragic, but it certainly wouldn't be that surprising. I don't think zippsy's comment was a criticism of diving or even risky diving but with the hyperbole.
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#74 John Bantin

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 07:02 AM

John, apparently it was loss of blood from his wounds that killed him... at least according to Meredith Verieina of the Today Show who quoted the Miami-Dade Country Medical Examiner. There was no embolism.


Does that mean we can still go diving? (...but not in shark-infested waters!)

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#75 loftus

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 07:24 AM

Being an accident doesn't mean that nothing could have foretold it either. If you die attempting Mt. Everest it may well be an accident, it may well be tragic, but it certainly wouldn't be that surprising. I don't think zippsy's comment was a criticism of diving or even risky diving but with the hyperbole.

In an earlier post I stated that accidents are inevitable, and the chances of course increase the riskier the behavior, I agree. I think it is important to emphasize though that the approach taken by Jim, including chum in the water, is never reckless in any way, and that these activities are pursued by people who choose to do them, and whose common sense and respect for nature is not necessarily compromised.

Edited by loftus, 28 February 2008 - 07:30 AM.

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#76 craig

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 08:30 AM

I think it is important to emphasize though that the approach taken by Jim, including chum in the water, is never reckless in any way...

Situations such as this are neither totally unforeseeable nor reckless. The objection is to the "foretold" part and I agree with him. I don't see where zippsy described it as reckless.

... and that these activities are pursued by people who choose to do them, and whose common sense and respect for nature is not necessarily compromised.

Yes, "not necessarily" compromised. There are a lot of people with varying degrees of common sense.

This kind of activity is in a gray area. It is neither defendable nor condemnable absolutely. People in favor and opposed have reasonable arguments for their opinions. Two things are certain: that this was an accident, perhaps a completely random one, and that this type of accident can occur under such conditions.

I think that, even if you are opposed to shark baiting, you have to recognize and hopefully admire the efforts that Jim takes to make that activity as safe as it can be. This will never be a black or white issue so arguing as those it were will be unproductive. Tragedies such as this are emotional things and emotions aren't conducive to reasonable debate.

I feel that man can manipulate nature for its interests, so I don't automatically assume that something is bad even if it does effect nature. We alter the environment merely by our presence. I think everyone here shares the opinion that shark conservation is incredibly important.
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#77 Drew

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 09:28 AM

I think everyone here shares the opinion that shark conservation is incredibly important.

And that is the billion dollar question. Does any of this harm or help the sharks? Are the sharks in the bahamas being protected because of this activity? Will it end once the businesses stop? If not, is it really detrimental to the sharks to chum and pull a bait around for photographs or viewing pleasure? Does it leave them more vulnerable to fishermen who also find out that Tiger beach is a great place to land big sharks? Shark finners are just as sophisticated as we are. They can find out where the best shark spots are by googling everything.
How do the millions of pictures of sharks coming out of the trips help with the PR campaign for the preservation of sharks? How do the sharks benefit if at all? I mean we all know sharks are wild animals and the ones with sharp teeth can hurt us badly, as proven with Markus' unfortunate death, essentially from the bite. Is it some joyride for the fortunate few and photo ops for the pros and nothing else?
If feeding activity keeps sharks in a certain area, what are the effects on the reef where they are suppose to be culling?
Obviously these questions cannot be easily or even objectively answered by many.
Discounting the shark's point, should this activity be banned because some divers want to take photos or get a rush from the dives? Climbing Everest means you have 1 in 10 chances of dying while attempting the summit. Those are pretty dismal odds for an extreme activity. Yet dozens of people line up with their 5 figures to do it annually. Nobody is banning that activity, even with those high odds of dying.
This debate has been around for a long time and pops up every time some poor soul gets bitten. The seemingly pragmatic reflexivity of this debate on both sides are even more convoluted by the money/entertainment aspect of chumming and baiting.
For the record, I am against chum/baiting for sharks on a regular basis, whereby their feeding and other behavior is altered almost permanently. There are plenty of anecdotal evidence that feeding behavioral changes can be bad. In Shark Bay, they use to feed the bottlenose dolphins, then they realized the mothers would not feed their young but hang out for freebies all day. A few even stopped reproducing!

Does that mean we can still go diving? (...but not in shark-infested waters!)

Yes John, so long as you promise not to carry chum in your wetsuit. :P

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#78 danielandrewclem

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 11:29 AM

Discounting the shark's point, should this activity be banned because some divers want to take photos or get a rush from the dives? Climbing Everest means you have 1 in 10 chances of dying while attempting the summit. Those are pretty dismal odds for an extreme activity. Yet dozens of people line up with their 5 figures to do it annually. Nobody is banning that activity, even with those high odds of dying.

That was my first thought, too. People like to drive cars really fast around a track, and this sometimes leads to fiery, fatal crashes. That's their choice, so who am I to say they shouldn't take that risk?

But the difference here is that meddling with the habits of organisms whose behaviors are not solely instinctive can end up affecting people who are not participating in that risky activity. For example, chumming for sharks and diving with them off a remote island could end up habituating the sharks (so they don't avoid people) or even conditioning them to the point that they do learn to associate the sound of a boat engine (or other stimuli produced by the presence of humans) with easily captured food. I think that's the legitimate issue here. And it's the reason that chumming has been banned in other locations.

This is also why grizzly bears who have killed humans are often captured and killed: because they’ve already had their behavior altered by an experience with a human, and because of that they are now much more likely to either not avoid people or to actively hunt them. (It's not always about learning from a reward; sometimes it's plain old habituation and a shift from avoiding people to hanging around when they're there.) The new danger posed by the conditioned animal isn’t just an enhanced threat to the Jeff Treadwells of the world who are knowingly and happily camped out in bear territory; it’s an enhanced threat to the average Joe who visits that part of Alaska and has no idea what he's getting into when he takes a little walk amongst the alders. Sure, both men are taking risks, but the risks that were knowingly taken by one man have upped the risk to the other man significantly, and that second man may not even know it. That's pretty irresponsible.

One diver’s choice to have a risky, thrilling shark dive could end up raising the odds that some swimmer down the beach (let alone other divers who knowingly sign up for the very same shark dive) will be attacked. I've got no beef with folks who aren't averse to risky experiences, but when their risk-taking puts others at risk, I think that is a problem.
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#79 John Bantin

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 02:54 PM

In answer to your question Drew, it all comes down to money.
When the Bahamas government were about to issue a license to long line for sharks, Bahamas dive operators were able to argue that a dead shark was worth $500 but a live shark generated $250,000 during its lifetime in tourist revenue. (Source: Stuart of Stuart Cove Dive South Ocean). That was the argument that kept the Bahamas sharks safe.
What are they worth and who gets the money? !!!

The angling lobby in Florida won against Jim when it came to arguing that his operation in East Florida caused the accident with Jesse Abogast in Pensacola. There are more anglers than shark divers in Florida so it is now illegal to feed fishes apart from with the purpose of harvesting them, off the coast of Florida. The fact that anglers were reeling in injured fish that were pursued by sharks in water that was also being used by surfers and swimmers was of no consequence to the argument.

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#80 Ila

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Posted 28 February 2008 - 04:14 PM

I ought to have prefaced my statement that nothing could have foretold this accident--by which I meant that it was an accident rather than the result of someone's poor judgment-- by pointing out that no shark fatality has happened to divers before in a baited situation to my knowledge. Sharks behave quite differently if you are on the surface, not looking at them and if you have your face out of the water. Large predators should always be faced. Divers are in their world, tend to treat sharks as other living things, and face and watch them accordingly. To that, sharks respond, nearly every time, by treating the diver with curiosity and respect, as they might treat a conspecific on a chance meeting. They are ordinary animals, yet have been demonized in the press, and are historically misunderstood. Mostly because most information about them has come to us through fishermen, who think that how a hooked, dying shark acts, is typical shark behaviour. The literature is full of it. Most people would just as well forget everything they have heard about sharks, and seen on T.V. and begin an honest research all over again.

Another point: the comments about feeding sharks a little bit on dives fail to take into account the countless tons of fish scraps dumped overboard by fishing boats. Why doesn't anyone ever mention that? Apparently its fine to dump huge quantities of shark food into the sea, but if you stay around to observe the majestic animals who come to see what it is, you're sinning. The quantity placed on shark feeding dives is so tiny in comparison as to be a negligible quantity, and if you watch the sharks who come, it often seems that they are not there so much to eat, but to socialize. Sharks don't have trouble getting anything to eat when they want to.

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