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Support Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures


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#1 echeng

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 11:22 PM

The following is a list of suggestions for those who wish to help by voicing their support of Jim, his diving operation, and the sharks in the Bahamas. This is only a start -- if you have any other ideas, please let us know.

1. Post a testimonial in support of Jim and the crew of the M/V Shear Water, express condolences to Markus Groh's family, or post a statement in memory of Markus Groh (if you knew him personally) on:

http://wetpixel.com/...-v-shear-water/

Here's a smaller URL, if the one above is too long: http://tinyurl.com/2do9g7

2. Sign this petition,
which urges the Bahamas Diving Association to continue to allow diving with sharks in the Bahamas.

3. Send an e-mail to Neal Watson, President of the Bahamas Diving Association and owner of Neal Watson's Undersea Adventures, to voice your disapproval of his harsh and unfair criticism of JASA and to provide a shark-friendly counter-perspective. Please be respectful and productive, guys.

Neal@NealWatson.com
800-327-8150

Bahamas Diving Association, US Chapter
P.O. Box 21707
Fort Lauderdale , FL 33335
Phone: 954-236-9292
Fax: 954-236-9282
Toll-Free: 1-800-866-DIVE
bda@clinegroup.net

4. Voice your concerns and send additional messages in support of JASA to others at the Bahamas Diving Association, encouraging them to react responsibly:

Vice-President of BDA: Stuart Cove of Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas
stuart@stuartcove.com
http://www.stuartcove.com
888-35-SHARK

Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Dive Specialists: Mr. Richard Treco
RTreco@bahamas.com
http://www.bahamas.com
800-866-DIVE

Nalini Bethel
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
Senior director of communications
Tel 954-888-1062
nbethel@bahamas.com

Out Island Promotion Board
info@myoutislands.com
http://www.myoutislands.com
800-688-4752

Press/Industry Contact: Cline Group
bda@clinegroup.net
http://www.clinegroup.net
972-267-6700

Here is a complete list of all of the members of Bahamas Diving Association:
http://www.bahamasdi...ml/index-5.html

5. Submit letters to your local media in support of sharks, diving, and Jim's operation. Be sure to highlight JASA's safety record. We suggest only doing so in response to negative coverage already in existence.
eric cheng
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#2 NickJ

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:10 PM

Please sign the petition on the Shark Savers site at Shark Savers Petition to try and ensure that the Bahamas Diving Association don't go ahead with their efforts to ban shark diving in the Bahamas.

I have submitted the following with my signature:

I urge the Bahamas Diving Association not to over react to the recent tragedy that resulted in the death of Markus Groh during a dive trip conducted with Jim Abernethy. Everyone who has dived with Jim knows his passion for safety is greater even than his passion for sharks. On every dive I have made with him his vigilance and concern for the safety of his clients has always been his first priority. He continually counsels and instructs on the safest practices, and monitors the behavior and expertise of every diver in the water to ensure his advice is being followed. His knowledge of shark behavior is second to none and I cannot think of anyone else I would rather put my trust in on a dive trip that included encounters with these remarkable and vital marine creatures.

The Bahamas community benefits a great deal from Jim’s activities with the diving and natural history community. His photos and videos, as well as those of the divers he hosts, have undoubtedly raised the profile of the Bahamas, sharks, and wildlife in general, in the most positive terms.

We all feel an enormous sympathy for Markus Groh’s family and friends, and it would be wrong to make any comments about the circumstances of this awful accident without all the facts. However, whatever the analysis concludes, I feel confident that it will transpire that no negligence by Jim or his crew will have contributed to this tragedy. To the contrary, Jim is obsessive about making his visitors’ experience of the unique conditions in the Bahamas a safe and repeatable one.

Just like climbers and mountain bikers, divers occasionally experience unfortunate accidents. To ban shark diving in the Bahamas would be like banning climbing in Nepal – it would serve no useful purpose and only result in many fewer people visiting the area and experiencing the pleasure that their sport allows.

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Edited by NickJ, 26 February 2008 - 03:14 PM.

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#3 echeng

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 02:13 PM

Here is what I sent to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism:

Dear Mr. Treco and Ms. Bethel -

I read in the Miami Herald that the Bahamas is investigating Jim Abernethy and his shark-diving practices. (by the way, the article also erroneously states that it was a tiger shark that bit Groh, and not a bull shark).

I'd like to share some testimonials with you from the community at Wetpixel.com. Hopefully, reading through these will show you that Jim absolutely represents responsible Bahamas shark diving, and that many divers will not return to the Bahamas if he is shut down.

The list of people who vouch for Jim in the testimonial text below is literally a who's who of the dive industry, including:

Brian Skerry, National Geographic
Doug Perrine, award-winning photographer
Alex Mustard, award-winning photographer
Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch, shark scientist
Tony Wu, award-winning photographer
Neil Hammerschlag, shark scientist
Ralf Kiefner
Bonnie Pelnar
David Haas
Mary Lynn Price, DiveFilm.com
Peter Mooney
Andreas Voeltz, Digideep.com
Julie Anderson, Shark Savers

... and the testimonials are just starting.

Of the people who are coming forward, dozens so far are tour operators who run frequent trips to the Bahamas. Personally, I have 10 organized charters booked for the Bahamas over the next 2 years. I would hate to see a negative decision from the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism affect overall diving tourism to the Bahamas. I would cancel all of my charters immediately, and I know many others would, as well.

Best,
Eric Cheng
Editor, Publisher, and TRIP ORGANIZER, Wetpixel.com

-- TESTIMONIALS --
Taken from http://tinyurl.com/2do9g7

(all testimonials from the webpage pasted right here)


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#4 echeng

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 10:17 PM

This post by Rob Stewart on Anderson Cooper's website could use some comments:

http://ac360.blogs.c...in-the-bahamas/
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#5 jarhed

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 09:16 AM

This post by Rob Stewart on Anderson Cooper's website could use some comments:

http://ac360.blogs.c...in-the-bahamas/



I posted a few non-confrontational words of support for Shark Diving Tourism and the awareness it promotes on Anderson Coopers blog, but they were screened and not allowed by the moderators. It was the only reply at the time with positive remarks, There appears to be a certain bias on the Anderson Cooper Blog...

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#6 james

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 09:49 AM

My comment is awaiting moderation:

I’ve been on two of these shark diving trips to the Bahamas aboard this boat. I’m a scuba diver with 10 years of experience, and I travel all over the world to dive. The reason there ARE sharks in the Bahamas is that they are protected against commercial fishing and the horrendous practice of shark-finning. If people didn’t want to go dive with the sharks in the Bahamas, they would have been caught and killed long ago.

Sharks are larrge predators and wild animals. People regularly interact with other large animals all the time in what are certainly risky activities. For example people ride “bucking broncos” and bulls for fun. When someone gets trampled we don’t sue the rodeo and kill the horse…

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#7 bmyates

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 03:18 PM

It appears that this thread is veering considerably off of its stated purpose:
What you can do to help Jim and his shark diving operation


Might I suggest that you take the philosophical discussion over to the "Shark bite..." thread where those topics are being discussed at length?

I want to emphasize the need for any of you who support Jim to - at the very least - sign this petition, which urges the Bahamas Diving Association to continue to allow diving with sharks in the Bahamas.

Jim's ability to continue operating shark dives will likely depend on Bahamian authorities recognizing the widespread support for him in the diving community, so if you don't do anything else, please at least sign the petition. It only takes a few seconds, and might make all the difference...

Edited by bmyates, 29 February 2008 - 03:28 PM.

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#8 echeng

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 03:33 PM

I'm moving all off-topic comments to the shark bite thread, where they belong. Thanks, Bruce, for keeping things on topic.
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#9 John Bantin

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:08 AM

I posted a few non-confrontational words of support for Shark Diving Tourism and the awareness it promotes on Anderson Coopers blog, but they were screened and not allowed by the moderators. It was the only reply at the time with positive remarks, There appears to be a certain bias on the Anderson Cooper Blog...

John



Yet mine seems to have been accepted!

Another John B.

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#10 StephenFrink

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:38 AM

I posted a few non-confrontational words of support for Shark Diving Tourism and the awareness it promotes on Anderson Coopers blog, but they were screened and not allowed by the moderators. It was the only reply at the time with positive remarks, There appears to be a certain bias on the Anderson Cooper Blog...

John


I posted as well, and it may or may not be accepted:

"Throughout the Caribbean it is very rare to encounter a shark on a dive, whether there is bait in the water or not. Even in extraordinarily remote areas like Raja Ampat it is rare to see a shark because of the fishing pressure from long-liners to sustain the absurd shark fin soup craze in Asia.

Yet, in the Bahamas, sharks are doing very well, specifically because the Bahamas government has an enlightened view of the role the sharks play to the ocean environment, and as significantly, recognize the vast dive tourism potential that shark feed opportunities generate.

Without shark dives and the traveling divers who support them, the sharks of the Bahamas would have been overfished long ago, just like everywhere else. For the shark's sake, we need the chance to enjoy proximity and develop appreciation."
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#11 r.m.jackson

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Posted 05 March 2008 - 11:09 AM

Do we have word on a plan to help Jim and JASA stay afloat financially, and more specifically, when - if ever - Jim can resume operations in the Bahamas?

This incident with quickly recede into the past.

Obviously, insurance coverage in the future will be a major issue. No charter boat can sit idle for long and pay the bills.

The sentiments are right on, but I am afraid more is required.

#12 MikeO

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 06:15 AM

I got my Undercurrent online e-mail today and it contained a blurb about the incident implying the same things others have. They foresee an "attack on waivers". They are going to run an article in April about this. I sent the following note. Others may want to send something before they go to press. If memory serves, they are very "anti-waiver", proposing that they shield operators far too much, and I think they were a supporter of the shark feeding ban in FL . . .


" I read my latest Undercurrent e-mail update this morning and was a bit disappointed by your blurb on the shark bite incident. In the future, you might want to look into something a bit more before you go to press. I sincerely hoop the article you publish on this in April will be researched thoroughly. First, the name is spelled Abernethy (only one "a", at the beginning), and, whether you agree with his methods or not, it is probably best when quoting Neal Watson to remember that Associations are made up of the operators themselves and Neal competes with Scuba Adventures for business. He stands to gain financially from putting them out of business. I would alos point out that you ran a trip report a few years back on this operation. i was on the boat during the same trip. You might want to go back and talk to "E.E.", your "intrepid reporter" about the operation -- he thought it was well-run and safe, as did I. I will admit it up front, I have been on Shearwater three times. i like Jim Abernethy a lot. I've seen reporting on this incident that runs the gamut from sensationalistic and irresponsible to somewhat objective. I would hope that you endeavor to make your article evidence-based and will attempt to paint the range of motivations involved. I'm a firm believer that a diver does take a large amount of responsibility in situations like this, just as a skydiver does when jumping out of a plane. If Jim Abernethy did something negligent, then it will come out. If this trip, like any of his others, was run well butsomething unfortunate happened, then let's please treat it that way. I know you have been running a campaign against out-of-control waiver writing, but another plea: don't let that effort cloud your objectivity here."

Edited by MikeO, 11 March 2008 - 06:16 AM.

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#13 loftus

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 06:37 AM

I tried to log in - but it's a paid subscription I see. Is there a way to post comments without being a subscriber?
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#14 dhaas

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 06:50 AM

Mike and Jeff and All,

My charter was the one that was written up back in 2005 in Undercurrent. I get the hard copy Undercurrent and also immediately wrote "Ben Davison" with my thoughts the same as yours.

I think waivers are necessary in today's world, and if you think anyone will go in business, risk their whole livelihood without some form of protection you're dreaming.......So I will disagree with Undercurrent regarding that.

It WILL be interesting to see how it is represented. I would be surprised to see a balanced discussion, though :rolleyes:

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#15 MikeO

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 07:08 AM

I tried to log in - but it's a paid subscription I see. Is there a way to post comments without being a subscriber?


Yes, and for the record, I already received a response from Ben assuring me that the article he plans to publish will be well balanced. He responded very quickly. If anyone else feels the need to contact them, their "Contact Us" page is here:

http://www.undercurr...w/contact.shtml

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#16 bmyates

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 08:26 AM

I had a similar reaction to the blurb in the latest Undercurrent, and just sent Ben the following:

> Ben,

I'm a LONG-time (charter) Undercurrent subscriber. I was a bit disappointed by the short blurb in the latest issue about the diver who died from a shark bite aboard Shear Water in the Bahamas. You - like much of the media immediately following the incident - latched onto a quote by Neal Watson stating that Jim Abernethy (owner of Shear Water) was an accident waiting to happen, etc. Unfortunately, you did not note (or know?) that Mr. Watson is a direct competitor of Abernethy's, and apparently himself markets baited shark dives in the Bahamas (making his statements more than a little hypocritical)!

My bigger concern is that you mentioned that you're writing a more extensive article for the April issue, and I fear that it, too, will be totally one-sided (against Abernethy and/or baited shark diving). If you want to see an active and informed discussion of both sides of the issue, about the best one I've seen is this one on Wetpixel:
http://wetpixel.com/...t...&hl=Bahamas

In any event, I hope you'll do some research into the issue, and remember to at least give fair space in your article to the arguments in favor of the practice, which include:
- diving up close with sharks is an amazing (some would say life-changing) experience for divers, and one that would be largely impossible (i.e., sharks don't tend to come close to divers) without some sort of baiting;
- one of the only reasons the shark population in the Bahamas is so healthy is because shark diving operations convinced the government that it is more profitable in the long run to attract shark divers than it is to sell rights to Asian shark-finning operations to come in an decimate them (as they have in most other parts of the world). Eliminate shark diving (baiting), and Asian money will no doubt lead to the wiping out of most sharks in the Bahamas within a few years thereafter.
- as I understand it, this is the first recorded death in ANY organized shark diving activity (compare that to deaths in wreck-diving, cave-diving, sky-diving, etc.). Sure there is risk involved, but it is a risk that participants willingly take on, and this isolated incident does NOT make it inherently more dangerous than many other activities (including many other diving activities).

I know one of the other issues you will address in your article is waivers on dive boats. I agree that reform in that area is warranted (I hate having to sign a total waiver, and yet I do it on every boat I dive on!), although I can't blame dive operators for wanting to avoid liability, especially when they see all their competitors also doing it. OTOH, I think the waiver issue is a very separate issue from shark diving, baiting, and Abernethy's operation in particular.

I look forward to your shark diving article, and I am really hopeful that you will attempt to cover both sides of the issue, as I believe you have done so well over the years with other topics.

Sincerely,
Bruce Yates

P.S. By way of disclosure, although I have no financial interest or connection to Abernethy, I have been a guest on Shear Water to dive with sharks and dolphins three different times, including one around the time one of your writers was on it - and wrote an article for Undercurrent a few years back. I don't think I've ever met a boat captain more concerned and conscientious about safety, and more concerned and passionate about the animals in the sea, than Abernethy. If you check back with the author of that article, I'm guessing he/she will concur. <

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#17 bmyates

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 10:20 AM

As a footnote, I, too got a very quick reply from Ben at Undercurrent, assuring me that he is not writing a one-sided story against Jim Abernethy, that he is familiar with Watson, and that shark feeding is not even the major focus of the upcoming article.

FWIW, I have come to think of Undercurrent (and Ben) as one of the last bastions of objective (in the sense that they don't cater to commercial interests) reporting in the dive industry. While it certainly reflects Ben's and his writers' own personal subjective opinions, I think on the whole it is an excellent publication.

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#18 John Bantin

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Posted 16 March 2008 - 08:25 AM

I am not sure that waivers have any relevance to an operation in Bahamian waters. The Bahamas uses the English Law model and as such it is not possible to waive your statutory rights even if you wanted to. Waivers are a peculiarly American thing and become worth little more than the paper they are written on under English Law. So, in my book, the 'attack on waivers' idea is a red herring when seen in connection with this case.

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#19 Walt Stearns

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 05:24 PM

Hearing about what happened to Markus Groh was a shock, and my condolences go out to his family and friends. But Markus, like thousands before him, including myself, freely choose to partake in activities that involve diving with sharks, and the risk that goes with it.

For most divers, the best, and sometimes the only opportunity to see a shark is to go out with an operation that sets baits in the water to attract them. Typically sharks don’t want anything to do with scuba divers, for a host of reasons, mostly because we are big noisy creatures. Hence, we need to have attractants - specifically food, or the scent of food, to make it happen.

Opponents of shark diving activities like to assert it is wrong, stating that the exercise is modifying the natural behavior of the animal. Well, in that case we have been modifying their behavior since the day man cast his first net into the sea to catch a fish, and we have been doing a fine job in altering the balance of our oceans ever since. The majority of marine biologists will tell you, most marine predators, especially sharks, are opportunists, constantly seeking their food source - whatever, wherever it may be.

The other assertion is that diving with sharks is not safe. Lets get real. People by nature are risk takers, be it scaling the vertical face of a mountain or playing high stakes poker. Just like any sport, scuba diving has its risks, and in their underwater pursuits, divers, on occasion, experience unfortunate accidents. While cave diving, breathhold diving, even deep wreck diving have certainly experienced more fatalities than anyone wants to count, recreational scuba has also had its share. Even in the most sublime of destinations like the Cayman Islands, there are a couple recorded cases of divers doing one-way wall dives. Yet, is anyone pushing a stop to wall diving?

As much as an operation attempts to oversee the activities of its clientele, the responsibility lies with the diver to understand the risks before he/she makes the decision to take it. Be it on a Bahamas shark dive with Jim Abernathy’s Dive Adventures or any other operation, we make our choices. Banning shark diving in the Bahamas makes no sense and would simply incite a trend that we may not want to see happen within the diving community. So what is really considered safe?

#20 Jettbritnell

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 06:08 PM

Hey all,

I feel Walt Stearns said it all in his previous post. One need only watch a documentary of mountain climbers walking past corpses on Mount Everest of those who did not survive their attempted ascent and or descent.
There are inherent dangers in many daily activities, ie, a roof caves in at a mall, a car jumps the center lane, and or slipping in the shower. As we all know, sharks get a bad wrap for simply being sharks.

As a fellow diver/photographer our condolences go out to any diver who may lose their life while enjoying their chosen sport. Accidents happen... sometimes with tragic results.

I have dived with sharks aboard the Shearwater. Jim does everything that is reasonable to ensure a guest's safety. I have seen guests do what could only be described as stupid things or they violate the dive plan in some way. Humans make mistakes. Like I said, accidents can just happen and a shark is a wild animal. Hence, we sign waivers and are informed of the risks. It should be up to an individual to choose what risks they are prepared to take. Not some legislator or governing body dictating what we can or cannot do.

We can only hope that sanity prevails and the rhetoric fades so we can all go back to doing what we love. If that happens to be shark diving, I'll support that.

Cheers,

Jett

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