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Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas


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#101 ebonites

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 06:26 PM

Obviously, discussion within this forum can go on at great length in seeking footing on this issue's slippery ground. And yes, this is an UW photography site and, as a diver/photographer, I fully understand the corresponding emphasis placed on this issue along with the threat of boycott to the Bahamas government. But any meaningful discourse on the environment and conservation requires, by definition, that we remain holistic in our thinking. You just can't get that in a manner that also incorporates chest-thumping individualism where environmental concern is custom tailored to exclude the greater good if one feels infringed upon.

I can also agree with the previous poster that referred to measures such as the chain mail suit. If that prevents another tragic accidental death and the resulting bad press to a public with "Jaws" burned in their collective psyche, then I can see such compromise as reasonable. It won't exclude injury from a large shark, but the shearing ability is lessened...it could make the essential difference in the future. And it certainly beats jockeying around for a good vantage point in some cage. Beyond that, I've always looked at teeth in your face shots as a cliche by now; it's more like "Jaws" in stills and counterproductive to the benign shark image we want to project. I may understand it in its real context, most of the greater public will not.

I believe there's a lurking reinforced behavior going on right here. Why keep repeating the mantra of "market forces" and be hostage to the deadly inevitability of what they ultimately accomplish? I want to deny grotesque prosperity for the relative few, from the finners to the corrupt officials that facilitate the carnage. I also want to participate in a collective outrage to stop placating corporative insanity with this acceptance of adjusting belief and behavior to "market forces" as the only way to go. Those same forces have no inherent morality and are part of investment at any cost, including destroying these species that have every right to share this planet with us.

Meanwhile, during this same week's time since this incident, over a million sharks have been killed, China alone has built 3 new longliners, etc. Within 3 years time, 250 million more Asians will be wealthy enough to partake in shark fin soup. The math then gives just 3 years until the world's sharks are all functionally extinct. 400 million years of evolution erased in a few more years for this idiotic rubbery soup? That's beyond tragic.

#102 danielandrewclem

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 03:08 PM

I think you continue to make an assumption as in your previous posts, that somehow sharks come to associate people with food, and subsequently have or will attack humans even in the absence of food ... Chumming and feeding sharks may lead to sharks associating humans with bringing food at best, this is quite different to sharks considering humans to actually be food, and thus attacking humans with the intention of eating or injuring them. - loftus

Loftus, you are misunderstanding what I meant by “association” between shark food and humans. Associating a natural prey item with some other object or stimuli is not the same thing as thinking that one thing is the other thing. It is simply a connection that has been built into the memory of an organism based on repeated experience or trials (and/or instinct) in which both things appeared together in time or space. That linkage or “association” then changes the animal’s behavior, because the animal expects one thing’s presence to accompany, precede, or follow the presence of the other thing. Hence we have dogs rushing to the kitchen when they hear a cabin open, or people wincing at the sight of George W. Bush because they have learned to expect lies and idiocy when he speaks... Or sharks learning to approach a vessel and some divers because the last twenty times they heard that sound and got near it there was an abundance of food dumped over the side. And on and on and on...

Sharks and other large predators do not need to learn that humans are food in order for a learned association between humans and food to become dangerous. When someone feeds sharks in the same place (or lures them in and introduces other positive stimuli into that event), those sharks can learn that neutral or previously negative stimuli (divers, boats, etc.) go hand in hand with the positive ones (food). This increases the likelihood that sharks will arrive and stick around even in the presence of those neutral, negative, or “unnatural” things, and it also increases the likelihood that the sharks will behave in other ways that they otherwise would not behave. These new or different behaviors can include both the good (lunging at bait at the surface, producing a wonderful image to display on Wetpixel) and the bad (someone gets “nipped” or worse). We already have humans getting occasionally attacked by sharks due to the power of natural, instinctive associations that some sharks already have ("surfer's silhouette" = "seal or turtle") due to sheer dumb luck. Should we really be feeding them more associations and upping the odds of more attacks? How is that respectful or wise? Can we not be satisfied with having found locations where sharks show up, and simply dive there without making things more lucrative or exciting by altering their behavior?

Perhaps some people are assuming that the only outcome of chumming, baiting, or feeding sharks is to lure them into the area and ensure that they stay long enough for divers to enjoy the thrill of a lifetime— that otherwise the sharks are behaving just as they would if you came upon them by sheer chance while snorkeling or diving. That is a flawed and myopic assumption, albeit one that is easy to make if all you are going on are superficial observations such as “the sharks were swimming slowly and peacefully” or “I didn’t die on that shark dive.” All kinds of experiments and meddling with nature have come back to bite us in unforeseen ways, and in most cases the initial intentions were noble and good, and the “experts” were quite sure that things were safe. (Anyone ever hear of the cane toads in Australia? How about those wonderful Africanized honeybees that came up from Brazil through the American southwest after being imported from Africa?) And the record in terms of what happens when people start feeding wild animals is riddled with tragedies and ecological nightmares, both for humans and the animals. I don’t understand why people who would not feed or attract bears or mountain lions in the wilds of the North America would then think it is just fine to attract or feed sharks in the Bahamas or anywhere else. From both a safety and ecological standpoint, it’s risky and irresponsible. If you want to go on a dive that involves attracting or feeding sharks, at least admit that the whole thing is contrived and that you are indeed treating the animals, as George Burgess said, more like “trained circus animals” than organisms whose natural, unaltered behaviors are entertaining enough. What's next, tricking male sharks into mating with fake females?

I myself have been on the receiving end of a minor Carribbean shark nip at Stuart Cove's when I placed myself stupidly between a shark and a fish head being dipped in the water.-loftus

Loftus, if the fish head hadn’t been dipped in the water you would not have been able to put yourself in between the fish head and the shark. And therefore you probably wouldn’t have been nipped. I respect your personal accountability, but why is it that you are the one who was “stupid” but the dive operator, or the food-dependent shark dive as a concept, isn’t culpable or problematic or stupid? How is your case not Exhibit A of a bite/incident with a shark that was made all the more likely by human actions that were indeed designed to promote feeding activity?

Does anyone really want to argue in good faith that what happened to Markus Groh had nothing to do with the shark food that was close enough to both he and the shark that the shark had the chance to take a poorly-aimed bite and fatally wound Mr. Groh? If the food hadn’t been there to trigger a bite, how would Groh have been bitten?
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#103 Ila

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 04:14 PM




If you want to go on a dive that involves attracting or feeding sharks, at least admit that the whole thing is contrived and that you are indeed treating the animals, as George Burgess said, more like “trained circus animals” than organisms whose natural, unaltered behaviors are entertaining enough. What's next, tricking male sharks into mating with fake females?


Well I really think that's going a bit too far, sort of like saying we are all circus animals because we drive cars. There are lots of unnatural events going on underwater, all part of the modern submarine world, but sharks are still sharks. Anyway, isn't George Burgess a sort of statistician? I was not aware that he is a researcher of shark behavior, or commonly dives with various species of sharks to the extent of knowing them, or how they behave at feedings or how feedings fit into their lives, or what their lives are like. I really think we should avoid over-simplifying sharks, their behavior, their environment, and this issue.

There are reasons why dive clubs hold shark feeding dives, and if they hadn't been so successful and mostly safe, they would not have flourished. I always regarded bringing a bit of food for the sharks I wanted to be with as a gesture of benevolence, and it seemed that it worked that way, too, in the long run. Isn't it normal to give something back when you want something from another, even from a shark?

It goes without saying that In the presence of any large wild predator, one needs to pay attention.

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#104 loftus

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 04:23 PM

Does anyone really want to argue in good faith that what happened to Markus Groh had nothing to do with the shark food that was close enough to both he and the shark that the shark had the chance to take a poorly-aimed bite and fatally wound Mr. Groh? If the food hadn€™t been there to trigger a bite, how would Groh have been bitten?

I think at this point, the exact details of this accident have not been clearly described by anyone that I am aware of, who was actually present at this accident. You are quite welcome to discuss shark feeding / baiting pros and cons etc, but I think you should refrain from speculating on exactly how this incident involving Mr. Groh happened at this point.

Edited by loftus, 03 March 2008 - 04:23 PM.

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#105 laz217

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 06:50 PM

And the fact that most humans tend to not "caress" the most dangerous species, because we know the harmless ones from the potentially harmful ones.
I'm sure you know very well, Ila, that Polynesians have long had a deep respect for sharks, but despite their comfort around those animals they certainly knew that some of them were dangerous and to be avoided. In Tongan there is an old saying, "Lukia tenifa 'i hono tahi," which means "challenging the tiger shark in his sea." Notice that the shark in the proverb is not a zebra shark (takaneva) or a blacktip reef shark (kapakau hingano), but a big, dangerous shark that has, every once in a while, killed Polynesians over the course of more than a thousand years. Clearly there's a reason for that. The fact that Fijian children play with baby nurse sharks is not evidence that someone should grab a great white's dorsal fin or stick a camera near the mouth of a bull without thinking long and hard about it first.


It seems that the discussion on whether feeding sharks is right or wrong can go on endlessly. But your previous statement is the one thing that many of these operators that dive with the so-called "most dangerous species" have been working so hard to dispel. Up until operators like Jim Abernethy and the numerous others who have dispelled the dangers of free-swimming with Tigers, Great Whites, etc. came along these animals have had nothing more than a demonized perception.

Unfortunately, many of these so-called dangerous creatures are a rarity to see in any other way than by means of an attractant. Once we (the general public) can begin to see the natural world for what it really is and not some Hollywood horror flick then perhaps the methods used by such dive operators will change.

But getting back to the topic... There are a number of so-called "facts" being tossed around throughout this discussion that perhaps need to be more intricately discussed. The main one being the "association" sharks supposedly make to humans when there is food in the water (not to be confused with hand-feeding). Based on what facts do you make this statement?

Edited by laz217, 03 March 2008 - 07:12 PM.

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#106 zippsy

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Posted 04 March 2008 - 07:33 PM

Up until operators like Jim Abernethy and the numerous others who have dispelled the dangers of free-swimming with Tigers, Great Whites, etc. came along these animals have had nothing more than a demonized perception.


And now, thanks to this one dive and one single incident, the perception is reinforced in millions of peoples' minds and introduced to millions of others. Thank you Jim (and those that go on these trips). I can hear the shark finners out my window now, laughing all the way to the bank.

Regarding Ila's comment, you may think that bringing the food to a shark is a nice or benevolent gesture but I really believe the shark isn't thinking "oh, how nice. this guy must be my friend. I should play with him gently as a reward." Then again, maybe the shark is more intelligent than anyone knows and it is training you. :)

#107 Drew

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 12:35 AM

Example: You can train a tiger to leap through a hoop, but if you push its limits by doing something like sticking your head in its jaws, it just might revert to instinct and bite your head off€”despite the otherwise friendly behavior that allowed you to get close to it, not to mention years and years without incident.) This is why this kind of event matters, and why shark dives that involve chumming or baiting are controversial and worth debating, IMO.

Daniel, in all your scenarios, you fail to acknowledge one important thing, that many divers WANT to do this. So unless incidents like these cause people to kill the sharks (eg: the mass hysteria in Australia where they go out and hunt any shark once a GW bites someone on a popular beach), and there is protection by virtue of these activities (and by all evidence in the Bahamas, there is), then really your argument is in principle only, and has no practical application for the protection of the species.

Wise conclusion, Drew! I would absolutely second that and personally vouch PRO SHARK FEEDING for exactly that reason. In a perfect world we would not penetrate the ocean at all and leave the sea alone. But divers or avid shark tourists are the lesser evil and might unfortunately be the last chance that these animals have. Sharks time is almost up.

Andi, while I don't doubt John Bantin's information, I do wonder how much the 7 or so operators who do tiger beach etc are contributing to the protection of the sharks in the area vs Stuart Cove's and others doing the reef sharks. Are the tigers and bulls getting unmbrella protection because of the reef sharks show at Stuart Cove's operaton? Would the protection be there whether tiger dives are done or not? I'm definitely not endorsing this activity at all, especially on a regular basis, for reasons stated next.

Certainly, but have you noticed the difference in behavior in these 'slightly domesticated' sharks under both conditions where food is present or not?

Actually, my own anecdotal evidence suggests just that there are differences. For example, my experience in Okinawa with the netted whalesharks changed my perspective on constant feeding. The whalesharks go right up to divers, often physically contacting divers while looking for food, like a domestic cat or dog. In all my dives with whalesharks from Aldabra to Zanzibar, I've never had one swim up to anyone like it was begging for food.
My experiences in natural feeding vs chummed is a little different. Sharks feeding on baitballs concentrate on the fish. one or two will circle me occasionally and if I get too close to a baitball, they will take a pass at me. They'll bump the camera and me the closer I am to the baitball(some of the bumps is really me being in their way) but none have nipped at my fins. A lot of the aggression (without too much antropomorphizing) is probably defending the food source.
Compare that to bait/chum, the same blacktip species, looking for food, nip at my fins and camera, take frequent passes and bump me. There are a few major differences and many minor ones but yes, they are there to be observed. Conversely someone I respect claims he prefers chummed/fed situations more than wild natural ones for safety. However, the safe 'feeling' is not the issue.
No one can deny the fish learn quickly (ever watch aquarium fish?) and know who brings food. The association of food to human activity is there and there is no denying that. Also we have to accept that our odds of having an incident with a shark increases quite a bit once we are in a feeding environment. HOWEVER, the question is does that equate to an increase in the propensity for a shark to bite a person, specifically away from chumming activities?
I don't think anyone will deny the higher possibility of incidents due to exposure to sharks. Some species of sharks become feistier and aggressive towards divers after being habituated by chum/bait, especially sharks like the C. Limbatus (that is again not an issue that is being challenged I don't think) which are known to nip at fins and cameras during chum sessions. They also lose their fear of bigger sharks like tigers. I've had a few tiger sharks trying to take nibbles and pokes at people during chum dives. It was probably curiosity but the problem is we are too fragile to handle an investigatory nibble with dire consequences.
More anecdotal evidence? Try PNG's Milne Bay. At a particular site called Valerie's Reef (aka Silvertip Reef) where operators chum regularly, the silvertips come in calmly but act aggressively (even making several passes at divers with any EM emission like galvanic metals or batteries from cameras) once they sense food but cannot locate it easily.
Obviously, many of these instances are during a chum dive. What about when the sharks are elsewhere?
The closest parallel is the Aliwal Shoal shark dives which is done 'near' a popular dive and spearo area, as well as being close to popular beaches. There are instances of shark behavior attributed to the baiting/chumming dives. For eg, I've seen a tiger shark I'd seen on a tiger dive approach my group of normal divers, and heard stories of spearos being approached even before they shoot anything on the shoal. Now is that sufficient to draw a conclusion? Definitely not. However, the general consensus is that people like to play it safe (again noting the Australian GW example)
As the human population encroach more and more into the ocean, it's inevitable that there'll be some sort of negative interaction. The shores of Florida prove that point. Michelle Kozinski of the Today Show notes that shark attacks have risen around Florida "the last century", erroneously forgetting that population of Florida grew about 2000% in the last century as well, not to mention the exponential increase in tourism, mostly concentrated along the beaches. Anyone with basic logic can see the correlation. Unfortunately (and irresponsibly), she could not or chose not to report it.
Most surfers understand and accept the dangers of mistaken identity incidents by sharks. Spearos obviously knowingly take the risk and many also carry powerheads to defend themselves. It is however very difficult to imbibe that understanding to the beach bather. Comparisons with the risks of driving on the highway bounces off, because driving is considered an essential part of life and the dangers acceptable. Swimming at the beach is considered part of a holiday and a different outlook takes over. And it really comes down to outlook.
As a photographer's website, I think many here will be on the side of continuing such dives and will willingly accept the risks involved. Unfortunately, there is a bigger picture involving the public and their perceptions, which isn't likely to change all that quickly as logic tends to give way to hysteria. For whatever reasons each party has (photographers, fishermen, operators etc), it is vitally important that we do not lose sight of doing what is right for the preservation of the species.

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#108 craig

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 12:33 PM

In a recent thread here on WP there were many that voiced the opinion that absolutely no manipulation of subjects is acceptable. Considering that shark baiting is a most blatant example of subject manipulation, anyone care to explain the glaring contradiction between opposing manipulation and supporting shark baiting? Why is it that if I carry a pointer I'm labelled a reef butcher but I can chum sharks all I want? Can anyone honestly say that nothing I do will threaten a shark but touching a sea cucumber threatens its survival?

I believe that a desire for the picture clouds our objectivity at times (particularly when it makes us money). This is a complicated issue and there's probably no best answer. I'm with Drew and others in that the most important thing is the best interest of the sharks. If only it were clear precisely what that is and that we could get everyone on board.

I believe the shark baiting issue is ultimately a classic "tragedy of the commons" problem (as are many of our diving versus environment issues). No baiting means ignorance and fear of the animals. Some baiting will contribute to better education and a more positive public image, but too much baiting will lead to too many incidents such as this one. I believe the arguments both for and against baiting are valid, it's a matter of balance. History doesn't show that mankind is very capable of managing that balance.
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#109 ce4jesus

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 03:47 PM

Its truly sad when a fellow diver dies and even moreso for their family left behind. I don't intend my response here to trivialize that fact but nonetheless I think its important to put things into perspective. Everyone reading this will one day die. It will be an untimely event as neither you, nor your family (unless you live past 100) will be expecting it when it happens.

A 39-year-old man fell to his death while trying to slide down a banister in the Hollywood & Highland Center mall in Los Angeles in January. [Sacramento Bee-AP, 1-13-08]

And three more people died recently as a result of disrespecting railroad tracks: a 42-year-old man, hit by a train on tracks near Burlington, Ill., while listening to his iPod (September) [Chicago Tribune, 9-10-07];

a 31-year-old man, hit by a train in Berkeley, Calif., while talking on his cell phone (November); [KCAL-TV (Los Angeles), 11-16-07]

and another man, hit by a train in San Leandro, Calif., also while on his cell phone (December). [San Francisco Chronicle-AP, 12-5-07]


Last week my co-worker found her husband dead at 60 sitting in a chair...natural causes.

The very act of strapping a tank to your back and heading into the underworld puts you at risk. Chumming sharks might up the ante a little but with trained professionals around your still more likely to die from a bee sting, drinking too many of your favorite alcoholic beverages, talking on a cell phone while walking in SF, listening to your Ipod while crossing train tracks, driving yourself to work, riding with anyone in a car and finally, if you share my genetics, eating steak and eggs for breakfast. Have we forgotten Steve Irwins fateful encounter with that vicious monster called a stingray? Yes, you're going to die at an appointed time and if that occurs below the surface you will have died doing what you love to do. Carpe Diem is a wonderful commandment. My prayer for all of you is that your last breath comes through a regulator with your eye firmly attached to a viewfinder at 30M. To make anything more than a tragic accident out of this fellows death is not productive. Furthermore, it ignores the odds of you dying while performing a plethora of other trivial tasks that you do on a daily basis autonomously.

Edited by ce4jesus, 05 March 2008 - 03:47 PM.

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#110 Ramalho

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 09:53 AM

Here has been numerous posts talking about shark feeding now, but do they really feed the animals on Shear Water? I have not been on her, but have been under the impression that they only attract the sharks, using strong, closed containers fot the bait that ensures that the sharks never actally gets anything to eat.

Do they feed sharks?

/c


no, there is no feeding. I was on the Shear Water 3 times saw no feeding. there's scent to attract the sharks, otherwise they don't come...

#111 Ramalho

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 09:59 AM

just wanted to ask if there's any posibility to explain the person that wrote message number 124 (Detlef) in the "looking for testimonials" that there is no feeding??

#112 Drew

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Posted 10 March 2008 - 11:11 AM

Oi garota carioca,
You can post your comments or ask one of the mods to do it. Are you out of africa yet?

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#113 Ethan

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 09:12 AM

Like most people who have weighed in on this subject, I'm very sorry to have heard that this incident occured and my condolences to the Groh family and friends. I've recently been assigned to do an article on this issue and I'm trying to look at it objectively from my perspective as both a photographer and biologist. I'm wondering if anyone knows of scientific studies (not performed by operators) that have focused on regular feeding or baiting sharks and their behavior.

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#114 John Bantin

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 09:24 AM

Whenever there is a tragic accident that is fatal, those left behind inevitably look for someone to blame. It seems to be part of the grieving process.
I myself spent six hours in the witness box defending the truth while the lawyer for the bereaved insisted that there has to be a reason why a fit 50 year-old man dies while underwater. In fact he had gone off alone, run out of air and failed to stay at the surface once he made it there. He drowned. It was sad but there was no mystery as far as I was concerned. However, the widow did not want to hear that her husband had contributed to his own death.
Consequently I believe it is best for everyone to pass no opinion now about what has happened (or might have happened) in this case until after the court hearing.

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#115 Drew

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 01:05 PM

John
Is there a hearing? Has the family sued? Or is this another hearing about JASA?

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#116 jcclink

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 06:03 PM

More conjucture & rumor unless the poster has spoken face to face with the parties directly involved. I'm still waiting for accurate & reliable information on what actually happened aboard the Shearwater. Hopefully that data will be made available in the future. Until then can't we all just take a deep breath & be a little more patient. In following all the posts on this thread I have yet to read anything definitive except a diver was bitten & died. And yes, I have been diving with Jim Abernethy & know he takes diver safety extremely seriously. No matter what activity you choose to voluntarily participate in, accidents sometimes happen no matter what precautions are taken.

Edited by jcclink, 15 March 2008 - 06:11 PM.

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#117 zippsy

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 08:10 PM

More conjucture & rumor unless the poster has spoken face to face with the parties directly involved. I'm still waiting for accurate & reliable information on what actually happened aboard the Shearwater. Hopefully that data will be made available in the future. Until then can't we all just take a deep breath & be a little more patient. In following all the posts on this thread I have yet to read anything definitive except a diver was bitten & died.

.... I think it has been stated with reliable sources that a diver was bitten and died while on a shark baiting dive. Isn't that enough to discuss the merits of shark baiting & feeding for photo ops? Even if the guy just had a heart attack and the shark sensed this and was trying to take him to the surface to save his life, can't we discuss the merits of shark baiting? I don't need data on this particular incident in order to form an opinion on shark baiting.

#118 John Bantin

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 01:34 AM

John
Is there a hearing? Has the family sued? Or is this another hearing about JASA?



Are you aware of the Statute of Limitations for English Law (Bahamas), European Law (Austria) or Florida State Law.?

It seems to me to be pertinent to wait.

I buy my own photographic kit. Diving equipment manufacturers and diving services suppliers get even-handed treatment from me whether they choose to advertise in the publications I write for or not. All the equipment I get on loan is returned as soon as it is finished with. Did you know you can now get Diver Mag as an iPad/Android app?

 

#119 Drew

Drew

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 03:36 AM

Well John, all the conjecture in the world on WP cannot be used in a court of law as it would be just hearsay unless someone says they talked to JASA and they told them this or that.
I wouldn't be too worried about that. But thanks for the reminder in these litigious times.

Drew
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"Journalism is what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations."

"I was born not knowing, and have only had a little time to change that here and there.


#120 Nadine

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 07:43 AM

I really hope that it may not be abused!!
It is so goog to see how many shark divers support our beloved friends!! :P