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Les Stroud's latest dangerous antics with sharks!


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#1 pats0n

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 10:57 AM

Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji's Beqa Lagoon is one of the most exiting shark dives in the world. Most famous for big number of bull sharks it also provides good chances to see enormous resident tigers, grey reef, whitetip, lemon, nurse, blacktip reef and potentially other species of sharks. I decided to publish this collection of images I shot during last couple of trips here today for the reason.

I don't watch TV at all these days, and most of natural history shows I see are on DVDs I receive as presents or buy by recommendation from my friends. As result I usually end up with good stuff, comparable in quality and educational value to marvels like Blue Planet or NGE. Obviously I was very confident that everything that carries logo of any significant natural history brand is preaching only good and produced with great care. So it was really big surprise for me to read shocking post from my friends in Fiji about production called "Shark Week" run by Discovery Channel - http://fijisharkdivi...or-does-it.html. For the sake of cheap popularity and ratings they don't mind to trash hard work done by many people in Fiji to create and support Shark Reef Marine Reserve over course of many years. This done by running all kind of stupid experiments during which sharks aggression is artificially provoked for the sake of "research" footage destined to be shown on the channel which is supposed to educate people about nature and promote good practices for interaction with animals.

Let me remind you that bull sharks are most dangerous sharks of them all - probably more aggressive and dangerous for people then great whites. But by the virtue of using our human brain and setting up protocol and practices it is possible to dive with them safely - and this obviously includes a lot of know hows but most certainly excludes stupidities like teasing and provoking animals. Any dog of reasonable size can instantly turn into killing machine if provoked or trained specifically, and here we are talking about wild animals.

And most beautiful thing about whole production - is the sub-title "Deadly beaches", which obviously helps a lot initiatives to improve public shark image and stop mass slaughtering of them, which if not ceased will most likely result in global ecological disaster just in 20-30 years to come. I thought that would be main reason for making any shark show these days on popular TV channel. But ALAS, I was wrong.

It will be very sad if due to all this "experiments" something bad will happen and we won't be able to enjoy this fantastic place same way we can do it today.


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#2 Mike L

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:05 AM

Those are some excellent shots!! #5 is absolutely my favorite!!
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#3 Steve Williams

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:12 AM

Thanks for sharing your great images Alex and I appreciate the heads up on what the Discovery folks are doing. I quote from your attachment;

"It reeks of greed, recklessness, stupidity and disrespect of one's host Country." Not to mention the sharks!

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#4 Mike L

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:21 AM

Id love to know what your camera settings were on #5
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#5 Drew

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:30 AM

It's not the first time Les Shroud has done stupid things with sharks to boost his ratings. However, I do think it's up to the operations to stop these portrayals.

Les Shroud's previous antics

However, let's be fair to allow Aqua Trek, which is the operation Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) is referring to, to respond. Since there is bad blood history between the 2 ops, it's not fair to take one side of the matter only. I'll contact Aqua Trek for their comment on this matter and hopefully we'll get both sides of the story.

Afterall, to me any regular feeding session is already bad enough :rolleyes: Having Les Shroud goading the same sharks to attack is just absolutely stupid on any level if true.

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#6 pats0n

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 11:25 PM

Drew,

It is very fair to hear versions of this story from both operators. Looking forward for you to post that you will find out !

Cheers, Alex

#7 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 01:57 AM

We'll see Alex. To be fair to the many ops out there, Les Shroud is mainly a north american blip on TV and as such isn't widely known internationally. It'd be unfair to assume that all ops should know the productions by name. However, when the actions become obviously stupid, the ops may still have no way out. This is especially true if contracts are signed. Producers can definitely be sneaky people.

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#8 marydiondiver

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 08:40 AM

Yes, AquaTrek may not have known what they were getting themselves into, but Peter Hughes bears some responsibility here. Apparently they transported the crew out there after receiving specific warnings from B.A.D. as to what the intentions were. These guys knew exactly what was going on and took them out there anyway.

#9 Drew

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 09:16 AM

Well Mary, they also have the option of pulling the plug. We'll know more if Aqua Trek replies to my queries. If they don't, they may not want to bother with this. Yes the Peter Hughes boat was the vessel they used. Realistically, do you think they even cared what the script was about when someone says charter for 1 week for eg? I mean how easy is it to say no to a $50k cheque in these times?
I do think that the operations which allow these things to happen should be publicly known so that consumers know who they are and can choose whether to use the ops again.
There's also much to lament here. The fact that some operators are willing to take money for any job while betraying the subjects which put them in business in the first place is very sad. Ultimately I think the most interesting thing is that programs like Survivorman need to resort to such antics for viewership, and there are enough people who actually want that stuff that there's a market for it.
Unlike the BBC or many of the european state supported TV stations, Discovery/Animal Planet have to make their own revenues and thus staying with just conservation themed programs would not do well. Capitalism at its ugly best!

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#10 Nakedwithoutcamera

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 11:12 AM

Incredible shots. I love them all but the clarity of #8...blows me away
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#11 Canuck

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Posted 02 June 2009 - 12:04 PM

Sweet shots. #1 stands out. Grrrrrrr .... lol.

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#12 Fijigirl

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 06:41 PM

Bula Drew,

Thank you for the opportunity to reply. Sorry for the lateness of my reply as I have been away.

Aqua-Trek has hosted many film crews over the last 10 years of running the shark dive. Thus far we have had some great productions as a result that have benefited in getting the word out that sharks need protection. Yes we hosted the Discovery dive team with Les Stroud. The Movie was unnamed as of the time of shooting. We were informed it was also for animal planet, a scientific program called Bio recon that studied the biological connection between sharks around the globe.
They came and filmed our dive as we run it everyday. They conducted no experiments. The filming was about Les with a scientist swimming amongst large sharks. We only show sharks in a normal state of feeding, no chumsicle feeds. All very calm.
Les explained that he would not be lending his name to any ludicrous productions as he is friends with people like Jean Michel Cousteau and Rob Stewart.
I honestly felt that there was just a desire to swim amongst large Bull sharks and our site is well known for this. The movie is not about Fiji or Aquatrek, our dive company, so the name “deadly beaches” does not make sense. They remained on a live aboard the whole time. They paid our daily dive rate. There were regular dive guests on our boat as well and the dive was conducted normally.
Yes, I know anything can be achieved in the editing room to make things look different from what they really are, but I have always had to trust film teams based on my discussions with them about what our dive is meant to achieve and that is to educate the world that sharks are not mindless eating machines, but graceful denizens of the sea vital to the marine ecosystem, and they are in great danger of becoming extinct. I never want to portray sharks in a negative light and will take no amount of money to do so. We made it clear from the beginning to Discovery, as all film crews, that we will not be party to any sensationalism.

I created the dive on Shark Reef in 1999 to educate people about sharks and the importance of protecting sharks. It became immediately apparent that we must protect the sharks we were attracting to the area. That same year we collaborated with the village that owns the reef rights to the reef system where the dive is held to develop a Locally Managed Marine Area (a no fishing zone) to protect the sharks and the surrounding reef where the dive took place. As part of that program, a per-diver fee was assessed that goes to the village. This has been in force since early 2000 and has been successful in allowing the village to realize the importance of protecting and sustaining its natural resources. We now have developed a second protected area on our current reef, Lake Reef. Both are recognized by the Fiji Government as protected areas. In fact the area in between the two reef systems is also part of this protected area. This has been my passion for decades and I continue to work toward this effort each day. I am working to pass legislation in Fiji to protect sharks and ban the sale of shark products.

My intentions are never to harm sharks, only to protect them. I hope to God that Discovery will not produce anything negative.

Most upsetting to me is that the other shark dive company in Pacific harbour that is running Aqua-Trek's first shark dive site, were aware that Discovery approached me to do some filming and did not pick up the phone nor walk across the street and give Aqua-Trek a heads up on their concerns regarding the film crew's intentions. Instead they waited until after all is wrapped and then proceed with the badmouthing and blogging. This shows more concern about hurting the competitor than protecting the sharks.

I thank you Drew for giving me the opportunity to give my side of the story. I wish more people on the internet were as fair minded as yourself.
Please keep me posted if you hear any more about the program.

Brandon Paige
Dive operations manager
Creator of the Shark Reef Shark Dive and the Ultimate Shark Encounter, both in Beqa Passage.
Aquatrek Beqa
Fiji

#13 Drew

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 11:51 PM

Thanks for writing up your side of the story, Brandon.
Unfortunately, Les Stroud on his own website talks about "Deadly Waters" and it seems to be a continuation of his previous program "Surviving Sharks" antics.
If they didn't do anything outside of a simple shark feed with your operation as you've stated, then I'd be interested to find out where they did shoot their sequences with the experiments that is reportedly in the script.
The most important thing is to make sure all the operators dealing with shark dives know about Les Stroud/Gurney Productions and put a stop to this sort of sensationalistic nonsense. I guess we'll find out in a few months when it airs.

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#14 pats0n

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Posted 18 June 2009 - 03:49 AM

There is petition now to stop harmful shark portrayal by Discovery's Shark Week production - http://www.thepetiti...cott-Shark-Week - number of signatures is still far from the target - I hope that Wetpixel members reading this thread can help !

#15 Fiji-Sharks

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 12:59 AM

Bula all

It has taken me a while to make sure I had all the facts right, but I've now posted a reply to the post by Fijigirl on
http://fijisharkdivi.../06/brazen.html

Mike Neumann,
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#16 MikeO

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 06:03 PM

Well, the exploitation of sharks is certainly disappointing. Also disappointing that the we've again opened up the forum to another food fight. Perhaps we could focus on the conservation issue rather than encouraging people to toss grenades at each other . . .

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#17 danielandrewclem

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Posted 28 June 2009 - 06:52 PM

"Les explained that he would not be lending his name to any ludicrous productions as he is friends with people like Jean Michel Cousteau and Rob Stewart."

Hilarious.
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#18 Fijigirl

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 06:18 PM

wow. I just read the fijisharkdiving.blogspot referred to above. There are a lot of untruths in an attempt to tell someone else's story in an effort to make it one's own.

I reply only here on Wetpixel as this is an open forum. I, and others have tried to reply or comment on the one-way fijisharkdiving.blogspot but controversial posts or anything that does not shed a good light is not posted. That is not a blog, that is a self serving website.

I agree with MikeO. Let's expend only positive energy moving forward toward the cause.

#19 Drew

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 05:52 AM

I am disappointed in Mike's decision to publicly attack his competitor in such a manner. However, since Shark Week is coming out on Aug 2. We'll have to wait to see if Deadly Waters does include scenes that Mike claims were shot using the Peter Hughes boat and Aquatrek.
I do find Discovery's position even more confusing. First on their website, they post articles like these:
http://dsc.discovery...ark-movies.html
http://dsc.discovery.com/sharks/
Then they have programming which reaches more people like these:
http://dsc.discovery...m-schedule.html
Where all of their programming feeds on the sharkploitation fear that they write about, but viewers won't be reading that obscure article.
Seems Discovery wants to appear like they are doing conservation work on their website while their programming continues to perpetuate the myths and like Les Shroud's previous show, fakes results to get the effect to make it look real. I suppose we can put it down to entertainment television at its worst.

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#20 Drew

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 12:02 AM

Anyone catch Deadly Waters? I forgot to set the DVR. Looking for the repeat now.

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