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Les Stroud's Surviving Sharks: talk about stupidity


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#1 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:30 AM

As many of us know, Discovery Channel has an annual Shark Week where many programs concentrate on sharks as a theme. I just happened to watch Discovery Channel in Asia today and saw Les Stroud's Survivorman take on sharks. I'd already seen Myth Buster's shark week special and thought it was brain dead entertainment (I mean 7 seasons later the myths I find interesting have all been done). However Les Stroud's Surviving Sharks has a few segments I find totally irresponsible.
They have "Bionic Bob", a mechanical dummy dressed like a diver, simulating a diver to entice tiger sharks to take bites. The sharks drag the dummy down to the bottom and begin to chew on it. They then proceed (surprise surprise) to harass the cameramen who have a similar shape to the dummy (but who is the real dummy here?).
Discovery Surviving Sharks/
Now what outrages me isn't that Scott Guerney and Les Stroud want to do that show, nor how this sensationalism can only feed the paranoia the public have about sharks. I'm somewhat disappointed that Discovery Channel would show this sort of show on Shark Week where it's suppose to be educating the public about sharks. I have to accept that it is a broadcast network and I'm sure the whole conservation angle is lost in the search for advertising dollars and ratings.
What really irks me are the shark dive operators who actually allow the simulation of divers to be attacked by sharks in the same area where they conduct their regular shark dives. Now that is totally shortsighted. There's never been any proof of association with humans as food with sharks. Still, they know when a boat comes round, it's feeding time. When they purposely use a human-like dummy as bait to be bitten and attacked by sharks, I don't see how that can be anything but detrimental. What surprises me is the dive operators like Stuart Cove and Dolphin Dream would help perpetuate this stupidity for a few days charter and some TV coverage. I would think working on the public image of their prime product would be worth much more in the long run.
I'm absolutely confounded by the choice of the operators and their lack of judgement, or am I expecting too much?

Here's the intro sequence:



and the links to other videos:

http://www.yourdisco...s-bionic-bob-2/

http://www.yourdisco...rks-bionic-bob/

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#2 Giles

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:50 AM

Have you ever been to Nassau or Stuarts Cove ? Stuarts Cove is nothing but a commercialisation of diving to the extreme. Its not about diving its about them making money. Nassau is the most crooked island I have ever been to. Everything is about back handers and locals making money for nothing.
Don't get me wrong .. every dive company has to make money, but at least most have staff who know about diving. The Bahamas themselves are a joke with the way they conduct business, and their rules about watersports. You will never get the idiots that run everything over there to change, all they are interested in is lining their own pockets. Oh an isn't Stuart Cove incharge of the dive industry over there ?

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#3 MikeVeitch

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 07:11 AM

please Giles, open up, tell us what you really think :unsure:

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#4 loftus

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 07:39 AM

I am very disappointed to hear Stuart Cove was involved in this; I've always thought their approach to introducing divers and the public to Carribean Reef sharks was done in a responsible way. I agree their operation is 'highly commercial' but then I never fault anyone for running a successful business as long as they do the right thing. Dolphin Dream on the other hand, I'm not surprised.
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#5 diver dave1

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 07:41 AM

Its a sad but true realization that the 'news' industry is not about news or informing the public of truth. Its about making money on advertising and the ratings to get it. Discovery channel apears no better. Its not about 'informing the public', its about ratings and subsequent money from advertising.

Some yrs ago, I watched a 60 minutes interview with the President of Occidental Chemical on Love Canal. At the end of the interview that 60 min presented, I wanted to lynch the guy.

The following day, I had an opportunity (due to my profession) to see the ENTIRE interview, not what 60 minutes 'glued' together. Then I wished that same Pres. was my father.
Whether the Pres. was speaking the truth is not the point, its the fabrication and manipulation to get a 'story' that sells.

That same year, I watched a local news story of a RIOT at a state park that day. I happened to have been at that park all day on a picnic with my family. Its a small park, there was no riot. The 'news' story showed film footage of a riot at night...but pictures were not at that park, the pics were a city scene at night. It was the 6:00 news. It was not dark yet that day as it was summer in western NY.. where its not dark until late. But the news claimed the riot was that aftn. while I was at the park in the sunshine.

Its not about the truth. Its about the money. Sadly.


As for using a human like dummy for shark feeds, that is just plain CRAZY!

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#6 Scubamoose

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 09:56 AM

Well, I think it's like Giles sayd it. Every dive company (as well as producers) need to make money... Offcourse it's sad, that Stuart is involved in this way. So far I have only heared and read mostly good about them and even planned to visit Nassau in 2010... quess it's not all so shiny afterall.
As for the footage and Bob's adventures - You got to be kidding me?! Isn't Jaw's, Deep Blue Sea and other commercial blabbering done enough damage? Seems now it's time for Discovery channel to "educate" the audience

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#7 dhaas

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 10:03 AM

Guys,

Never confuse network TV (or Discovery and such) as totally inclusive reporting. Plus the public doesn't really care and wants (needs?) to be constantly entertained in their living rooms.....Ratings and advertising revenue will always rule. Good or bad, yin and yang. Turn it off if you like. (I do......)

Not picking on Stuart Cove's but I'll bet they've made more money from Hollywood than "normal" educational shark dives. It is what it is......

That said, I'm happy operators take us to see and appreciate these animals versus no interaction at all!

YMMV

dhaas

Edited by dhaas, 16 December 2008 - 10:04 AM.

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#8 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 10:48 AM

Dave
I'm not sure I can agree with that. Sure Stuart has done a few films and TV shows. But they are probably just icing to the tourist crowd. Production crews never return so his main income is the casual divers. I don't hold Discovery to higher standards after they started doing reality TV shows like American Chopper. I do find that Discovery actually like to sensationalize their programming more than NatGeo etc.
My biggest issue is a safety one whereby the same tigers now associate people with food literally. If tigers can remember where the turtle islands are and when they do it, then the association is pretty dangerous. Same for the reef sharks. Chain mail for the feeder but I'm sure the clients don't have them. The show was shot BEFORE the Markus Groh incident so I'm hoping these guys have wised up.

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#9 stewsmith

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:08 AM

i havent seen this but was rather peed off to read it. if this was done as a commercial venture who was responsible for the appropriate risk assessments. i am from a health and safety background ( oi put your hard hat on ) and writing risk assessments is part of my daily duty. any health and safety co-ordinator that would allow such a stunt should be sacked. us divers are the end user of this charade and we have not been taken into account.

just my 2 p's worth

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#10 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:19 AM

Stew
you should watch the clips on the link. My favorite part? Yummy yellow fins on the cameraman. Whichever operation is responsible for this crew, I'd give this op a VERY WIDE berth.
I mean the dummy is plastic and wrapped in neoprene. Yet they allow the tiger to chomp and probably swallow some of it. Sigh! Great way to protect their meal ticket.

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#11 dhaas

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 11:43 AM

Drew,

This shark feeding association comes up all the time here and over on Scaryboard (Scubaboard) and other online venues. It's been beaten to death yet I (and many others) feel there is no increased risk anywhere it is done in the world. No huge spike in "scary' moments or bites especially on scuba divers. Yes, some basic precautions are recommended but it isn't a big deal to be a safe as possible in the water with these animals.

Most who comment have never even been close to a Tiger or other shark except maybe the snappy "pack dog" mentality Caribbean Reef sharks. Hell, those little rockets are what I pay attention to!

It won't stop with movies, TV shows and all the divers who want to see and photograph sharks close up and such.

By the Bye, Nassau including Stuart Cove's has been doing movie and TV shooting for decades. Plus UNEXSO and other places back before many Wetpixellites were even born. So yes, movie revenue has and will continue to demand this type of activity as a profitable service.

I think if people object to any show sending a well written email stating your objections to the producers would be a better tact than discussing it on Wetpixel.

Just my 2 cents......Nothing more, nothing less.....

dhaas

P.S. - stew, risk assessment? What risk assessment........You sign, dive and take pics. That's it.....

Edited by dhaas, 16 December 2008 - 11:44 AM.

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#12 stewsmith

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:16 PM

P.S. - stew, risk assessment? What risk assessment........You sign, dive and take pics. That's it.....


i am not talking about risk assessments for us divers, i am talking about the risk assessments that should have been made by the production company. the production company should have done a risk assessment for the activites that they were going to carry out. we will use the video clip activty as an example.

task : using a life like dummy of a diver we will use various methods to see if the shark will attack the dummy.

risk : shark biting

who is at risk : anyone in the water and any other diver who visits this area after the test.

this would be the another, on a completely different subject but with the same principles.

task: planting land mines

risk : being blown up

who is at risk : person planting the mine and anyone within explosion radius, anyone visiting the area when the mine has been planted.

ok you will say that this is an extreme case and not comparable, and to an extent i do agree. but the rule of thumb is the same. we have to be thinking about end users. anyone in america will be well aware of personal prosecution and the uk is gewtting the same with a compensation society.

going completely off topic. when i write a risk assessment at work for something to be constructed, i also have write one for how it should be demolished for when it does have to be demolished even if it is a structure that is built to last 50 years or more.

there have been some crazy claims here in the uk, burglars sueing the owner of a property he has tried to burgle ( sp ) because the burglar fell and broke a leg whilst breaking and entering. the owner of the building did not have signs up say " risk of falling - keep off " so the owner was taken to court and lost.

i would say that an assessment was done but i would almost guarantee the end users ( us divers ) were not taken into account.

thats enough about work, now where is my wine.

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#13 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:28 PM

Dave, the follow on of this discussion is to get member support for a letter to Discovery to support the conservation of sharks. The Gurneys who produce the SurvivorMan series are not trying to conserve anything except their series' longevity. I'm not the jump in without looking type. :)

As far as the association factor when an operator is chumming and wrangling may have been argued ad nausem. I do think the idea of enticing the sharks to chomp on a dummy that looks like a human is going farther up the scale toward association, especially since it's in the same area and probably the same sharks that frequent the shark dives. You and others may feel safer, but I've also seen the injuries of tiger sharks biting people during these sort of dives. Thus, you might say I lack the same confidence you exhibit on this issue, even though I've been close to a shark or 3 in my time.
As for risk assessment, most (if not all) US and UK broadcast production I've been part or seen of has a safety diver with a speargun for the camera person in any feeding shark shoots. It's part of their insurance requirements. Interestingly, the equivalent German and French crews don't have the same requirements.

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#14 stewsmith

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:41 PM

As for risk assessment, most (if not all) US and UK broadcast production I've been part or seen of has a safety diver with a speargun for the camera person in any feeding shark shoots. It's part of their insurance requirements. Interestingly, the equivalent German and French crews don't have the same requirements.


so they have taken care of the camera person, thats good. but what about the other people that will be donning wetsuits and cylinders and jumping in with them at a later date. that is the point i was trying to make. other divers visiting the area or coming into contact with the shark in the video are the end users. no concideration in my opinion has been given to them.

stew

Edited by stewsmith, 16 December 2008 - 12:43 PM.

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#15 loftus

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 12:55 PM

Probably the biggest crime here (already alluded to in Drew's initial post) is perpetuating the 'myth' of sharks as maneaters, with all the detrimental effect that this has on shark conservation, finning etc.
So here we have a triple whammy; sharks portrayed as maneaters, posssible increased danger to divers who resemble these dummies they used, and then if there are attacks on divers this would supposedly prove their point that sharks are maneaters.
There is simply no reason why these guys cannot do productions that show sharks in all their awesomness (my word) yet simultaneously show how for the most part they have no interest in taking a bite out of humans.
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#16 dhaas

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 05:12 PM

Great summary Jeff :)

I realize (and agree) that anything seen by the masses would hopefully dispell the myth that sharks are inherently dangerous to us. But I don't think anything will sway those approving budgets and concepts of the type of shows perpetually shown......

As far as a dummy in the water being chomped then days, weeks or months later a diver or snorkeler is at greater risk from the same animal? (if they're even still around....)

I think you're a greater risk standing in a field with a golf club in a lightning storm :monkey:

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#17 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 05:23 PM

so they have taken care of the camera person, thats good. but what about the other people that will be donning wetsuits and cylinders and jumping in with them at a later date. that is the point i was trying to make. other divers visiting the area or coming into contact with the shark in the video are the end users. no concideration in my opinion has been given to them.

stew

Well Stew, just how responsible are they for that? I mean there is no proven correlation, as Dhaas has said, even for using a human like dummy. Did the TV show over dramatize the aggressiveness of the Tigers for effect, or were the Tigers really interested in the cameramen after chomping on "Bob's" plasticky and neoprene clad body? Perhaps they finally realized how stupid they really were? :) I'm sure an assessor can come up with a number for the risk though. :monkey:

There is simply no reason why these guys cannot do productions that show sharks in all their awesomness (my word) yet simultaneously show how for the most part they have no interest in taking a bite out of humans.

It's awesome to you because you appreciate the 400 million years of evolution etc. The public couldn't care less about that. They crave the excitement of seeing killer sharks. We have to accept that sharks are just well honed apex predators. The warm and fuzzy factor is just missing. If Jabba Jaws and Bruce couldn't change the public awareness, what are the chances of TV producers coming up with TV ideas that will do so?
I do think the docility of the tigers during most of the shark dives is only part of their behavior. Being the 2nd highest shark incident species, they probably don't always bump and test but also ambush and bite first, just like the C. Carcarias. I do think many don't give them the respect they deserve. I know one shark dive operator with a nasty scar on his leg to remind him to respect them more.

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#18 loftus

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:36 PM

It's awesome to you because you appreciate the 400 million years of evolution etc. The public couldn't care less about that. They crave the excitement of seeing killer sharks. We have to accept that sharks are just well honed apex predators. The warm and fuzzy factor is just missing. If Jabba Jaws and Bruce couldn't change the public awareness, what are the chances of TV producers coming up with TV ideas that will do so?
I do think the docility of the tigers during most of the shark dives is only part of their behavior. Being the 2nd highest shark incident species, they probably don't always bump and test but also ambush and bite first, just like the C. Carcarias. I do think many don't give them the respect they deserve. I know one shark dive operator with a nasty scar on his leg to remind him to respect them more.

I did say 'for the most part'. I have no problem with a production that promotes a healthy respect for sharks. So I'm not saying they should be producing stuff that downplays the potential danger of sharks, they are wild animals after all.
I do think it is fair to say though, that in most situations, Tigers are interested in easy food, as we see and experience on dives like Tiger Beach. We all know from being in the water with these guys, that they could take us anytime they wanted.
My point here is that unfortunately the big losers in the end here are sharks.
I have to add the caveat here that I have not seen the production, so I am just going by what you say in your initial post
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#19 Drew

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Posted 16 December 2008 - 06:52 PM

There are short clips in the link provided and also the intro clip.

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#20 Scubamoose

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Posted 17 December 2008 - 01:39 AM

My point here is that unfortunately the big losers in the end here are sharks.


Exactly where I was aiming at!
I think there are uncountable amount's of diver's in the seas and more coming daily. So if one of them get's eaten when shooting Discovery doc., then finding a new cameraman won't be a enormous problem. But the devastating influence (or non respectful attitude) form wider audience (not professionals) agains't shark's is again a little bit higher... :)
No offence agains't UW cameraman's! :monkey:
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Edited by Scubamoose, 17 December 2008 - 02:30 AM.

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