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Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

And that is the billion dollar question. Does any of this harm or help the sharks? Are the sharks in the bahamas being protected because of this activity? Will it end once the businesses stop? If not, is it really detrimental to the sharks to chum and pull a bait around for photographs or viewing pleasure? Does it leave them more vulnerable to fishermen who also find out that Tiger beach is a great place to land big sharks? Shark finners are just as sophisticated as we are. They can find out where the best shark spots are by googling everything.

How do the millions of pictures of sharks coming out of the trips help with the PR campaign for the preservation of sharks? How do the sharks benefit if at all? I mean we all know sharks are wild animals and the ones with sharp teeth can hurt us badly, as proven with Markus' unfortunate death, essentially from the bite. Is it some joyride for the fortunate few and photo ops for the pros and nothing else?

If feeding activity keeps sharks in a certain area, what are the effects on the reef where they are suppose to be culling?

Obviously these questions cannot be easily or even objectively answered by many.

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

This debate has been around for a long time and pops up every time some poor soul gets bitten. The seemingly pragmatic reflexivity of this debate on both sides are even more convoluted by the money/entertainment aspect of chumming and baiting.

For the record, I am against chum/baiting for sharks on a regular basis, whereby their feeding and other behavior is altered almost permanently. There are plenty of anecdotal evidence that feeding behavioral changes can be bad. In Shark Bay, they use to feed the bottlenose dolphins, then they realized the mothers would not feed their young but hang out for freebies all day. A few even stopped reproducing!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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In answer to your question Drew, it all comes down to money.

When the Bahamas government were about to issue a license to long line for sharks, Bahamas dive operators were able to argue that a dead shark was worth $500 but a live shark generated $250,000 during its lifetime in tourist revenue. (Source: Stuart of Stuart Cove Dive South Ocean). That was the argument that kept the Bahamas sharks safe.

What are they worth and who gets the money? !!!

 

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

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

 

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

 

Ila

French Polynesia

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

 

Ila

French Polynesia

Excellent point, I never thought of that. In addition, even if they are interested in the food, I have never seen sharks directly associate humans with food - if there's no food, or smell of food - they rarely stick around the diver (not like my golden retriever).

Edited by loftus

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

 

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

I'm glad you have a healthy respect for nature, zippsy, but unfortunately nature is very poorly understood--the word pretty well means anything you want. How do you explain all the people the world over swimming with sharks, including tiger sharks, handing them food, caressing them, or attracting them by other means, just to spend time in their presence, and not being bitten? Further, the sharks show every sign of enjoying their time around people. Sharks, even great whites, are less aggressive than the big terrestrial predators.

 

It ain't a case of man eat fish, fish eat man, no. How many sharks have I seen with appalling machete wounds, followed by death. And then there's the one to two hundred million sharks finned each year for a bowl of luxury soup, which sort of shadows the few shark bites that occur.

 

It was a sad, sad thing, but many more divers die from other causes, than from shark bites. Everyone who dives, knows there are many risks. Please note, that the victim was bitten on the calf, which was suggestive that the shark intended to give a warning slash--it did not go for the body core.

 

Ila

Edited by Alex_Mustard

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Sorry, I know it looks like I am picking on you but....

 

Another point: the comments about feeding sharks a little bit on dives fail to take into account the countless tons of fish scraps dumped overboard by fishing boats. Why doesn't anyone ever mention that? Apparently its fine to dump huge quantities of shark food into the sea, but if you stay around to observe the majestic animals who come to see what it is, you're sinning.

Actually, I am not too keen on anyone dumping scraps from boats either. It's just that I didn't realize that there where commercial fishermen on the forum. This is for them: HEY, KNOCK IT OFF!!!

 

...and if you watch the sharks who come, it often seems that they are not there so much to eat, but to socialize.

The sharks smell the chum and take that as a signal to come over to play cards or catch a movie??? :) No wonder I have trouble making friends. I only offer them beer. :o

 

Sharks don't have trouble getting anything to eat when they want to.
True. But when they smell an easy meal and come over to socialize, don't you think they expect at least a snack? :P

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Hey Folks,

 

Now i appreciate it's normally Drew being the spoilsport but as Eric mentioned this website is being used as a source for various 'reputable journalists' around the world. These opinions and words expressed here about the wisdom of sharkfeeding may well be twisted to the detriment of the sharks in general. So maybe it might be an idea to keep discussion about the Shearwater for now?

 

Just my 2 Cents.

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But that's my point (at least part of it). I think shark feeding IS detrimental to sharks. It's no where near as bad as shark finning (which I also speak out against) but I reckon that shark feeding, baiting, chumming DOES lead to more shark bites - no matter how many or few - than if the practice was stopped. Andthose "accidents" definitely lead to BIG news stories - whether that's right or wrong - and those stories make the average guy on the street feel less of a need to protect sharks and they also give the finners another piece of ammunition to say "we are doing everyone a favor".

 

Protect the sharks. Don't feed them unless an emaciated one shows up on your doorstep and begs for food. Don't bait them because predators hate to be teased.

 

BTW, I love sharks and want to keep them around for my grand kids to see. I would love to cuddle one but I personally know three people with serious scars having done that. I would love to treat one as a pet and feed one but I personally know a high school classmate who lost an arm doing that (on a "professional" shark feed in Florida back when it was legal). I would love to pet a shark. Come to think of it, I have. It was cool. I love to photograph them, swim with them, see them, etc. I just don't see a need tease or feed them just so I can selfishly see more of them, thus putting their future in further peril. LET THEM LIVE!!!

Edited by zippsy

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I reckon that shark feeding, baiting, chumming DOES lead to more shark bites - no matter how many or few - than if the practice was stopped.

 

So does Swimming in the Ocean. Don't do it. :)

 

Ok that is tongue-in-cheek and not helpful. :P

Edited by Scuba_SI

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quote name='zippsy' date='Feb 28 2008, 07:21 PM' post='160283']

Sorry, I know it looks like I am picking on you but....

Actually, I am not too keen on anyone dumping scraps from boats either. It's just that I didn't realize that there where commercial fishermen on the forum. This is for them: HEY, KNOCK IT OFF!!!

The sharks smell the chum and take that as a signal to come over to play cards or catch a movie??? :) No wonder I have trouble making friends. I only offer them beer. :o

 

True. But when they smell an easy meal and come over to socialize, don't you think they expect at least a snack? :P

 

What I meant was that in most cases sharks aren't so hungry that they are frantic for food. They are drawn to feedings partly just to be part of the group, and they swim together through the region, and follow each other around. Swim with them.. you will see this. They are always coming up behind another individual present, usually an infrequent visitor. The same sharks do not always attend, because the feedings aren't that important to them.

 

When they are hungry, they eat. They have fairly large territories, and the shark feedings that take place in them regularly are known about and part of their environment. They are also not so stupid that they cannot distinguish between a feeding, a spear fisherman, and a swimmer. Different things attract them, because they are curious and intelligent animals, but when they want to eat, they eat. If there is a feeding going on, they will go there, if not, they catch their natural prey.

 

Just what I have observed over many years.

 

With good wishes,

Ila

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Another point: the comments about feeding sharks a little bit on dives fail to take into account the countless tons of fish scraps dumped overboard by fishing boats. Why doesn't anyone ever mention that? - Ila

Because it's not a good comparison. The theoretical "sin" that we're debating is not in the feeding or baiting; it's in the conditioning or habituation of powerful, well-armed animals by having food and humans in the water at the same place and time. As other people have pointed out, it's like camping in grizzly bear territory with open food containers. Once they make that association (which you have made it so easy for them to make) they quickly learn the lesson and there is often no turning back.

 

If commercial fishermen were diving with sharks after tossing hundreds of pounds of fish guts and discarded bycatch into the water, they'd be bitten all the time. And this would either lead to the outlawing of the practice or fishermen would simply wise up and stop swimming amidst the bloody offal.

 

Sometimes some of you guys sound as though you think that sharks give a damn or appreciate that you're only diving with them to "respect them" or take pretty photos of them in action. THEY DON'T. You are not doing them any favors. (By this point we certainly have enough spectacular photos from Tiger Beach to feature in all the shark conservation publications and endeavors in the world, so let's ease up with the "we need to dive with them to convince people to save them" argument.) And the fact that you have to feed them to get them to show up or do photogenic things such as open their mouths at the surface so you can get that awesome over/under portrait is evidence that your respect for their natural behavior only goes so far and seems pretty vulnerable to the persuasive powers of artistic and financial incentives. If it seems like your dive is going to be shark-less, you are willing to alter their behavior. Is that respectful? Would it not be more respectful to simply dive with as little impact as possible (if at all) and let the sharks behave as naturally as possible? It's one of the most basic rules of stewardship: Don't feed the animals or do anything to change their behavior.

 

In addition, even if they are interested in the food, I have never seen sharks directly associate humans with food - if there's no food, or smell of food - they rarely stick around the diver (not like my golden retriever). - Loftus

"Associate humans with food" means that when an animal encounters its food items and humans at the same time and place, one of several lessons can be learned that causes the animal to thenceforth "think" of humans and food items as synonymous or contemporaneous. This can easily condition the animal to behave around humans in a way that they normally wouldn't (such as NOT disappearing when you're in the water and, instead, congregating around a boat), and can lead to "accidentally" biting the wrong part of that Human-Food association. If you have a golden retriever, I'm sure you spent time conditioning it to make all kinds of associations, such as "opening the cabinet" = "dinnertime" or "shitting on the rug" = "punishment time."

 

Look. At bare minimum, even if we accept the premise that sharks at Tiger Beach and similar spots are not conditioned to associate humans with food (either in the moment or longterm), the fact that some of those sharks are lunging at chum bags or baits means that it is more likely that they might "accidentally" bite something other than the target objects. Because if not for those potential prey items in the water, they wouldn't be BITING at anything, right?

 

Rob "shark expert" Stewart's comment on CNN, which Eric linked to in a separate thread, is a great example of this cognitive dissonance: "The shark that bit Markus Groh was biting at a box of fish very close to the diver, and when the sand was stirred up and the visibility decreased, the shark bit Markus’ calf instead."

 

Okay, Rob. Here's a really simple question:

Would that bull shark have had its jaws open or been BITING if that box of fish hadn't been in the water? If not, can we please admit that the bait that was in the water probably had something to do with this tragedy?!

 

How do you explain all the people the world over swimming with sharks, handing them food, caressing them, or attracting them by other means, just to spend time in their presence, and not being bitten?-Ila

Luck.

And the inability of many shark species to bite people.

And more luck.

And the natural disinterest on the part of sharks toward humans.

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.

 

BTW, there have been plenty of shark attacks in your neck of the woods, Ila, including at least one fatal attack in French Polynesia in the ISAF database. And the ISAF barely scratches the surface of what's happened in the remote corners of the world.

Edited by danielandrewclem

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Sometimes some of you guys sound as though you think that sharks give a damn or appreciate that you're only diving with them to "respect them" or take pretty photos of them in action. THEY DON'T. You are not doing them any favors. (By this point we certainly have enough spectacular photos from Tiger Beach to feature in all the shark conservation publications and endeavors in the world, so let's ease up with the "we need to dive with them to convince people to save them" argument.) And the fact that you have to feed them to get them to show up or do photogenic things such as open their mouths at the surface so you can get that awesome over/under portrait is evidence that your respect for their natural behavior only goes so far and seems pretty vulnerable to the persuasive powers of artistic and financial incentives. If it seems like your dive is going to be shark-less, you are willing to alter their behavior. Is that respectful? Would it not be more respectful to simply dive with as little impact as possible (if at all) and let the sharks behave as naturally as possible? It's one of the most basic rules of stewardship: Don't feed the animals or do anything to change their behavior.

"Associate humans with food" means that when an animal encounters its food items and humans at the same time and place, one of several lessons can be learned that causes the animal to thenceforth "think" of humans and food items as synonymous or contemporaneous. This can easily condition the animal to behave around humans in a way that they normally wouldn't (such as NOT disappearing when you're in the water and, instead, congregating around a boat), and can lead to "accidentally" biting the wrong part of that Human-Food association. If you have a golden retriever, I'm sure you spent time conditioning it to make all kinds of associations, such as "opening the cabinet" = "dinnertime" or "shitting on the rug" = "punishment time."

 

Since you don't know what I was doing, spending time with sharks to know them, I can't fault you for putting me into some sort of stereo type of your own making, so I'll not bother addressing this

 

 

And the inability of many shark species to bite people.

And more luck.

 

No, it goes too far for it to be luck.

 

And the natural disinterest on the part of sharks toward humans.

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.

 

Tigers?

 

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.

 

BTW, there have been plenty of shark attacks in your neck of the woods, Ila, including at least one fatal attack in French Polynesia in the ISAF database. And the ISAF barely scratches the surface of what's happened in the remote corners of the world.

 

Its generally thought that its the needlefish who kill here, not the sharks. But, I certainly can't argue with you if you have the statistics. It would be interesting to know the circumstances of these bites, since a few of them, reported as attacks were not, others were quite hyped up. I have an article in review which touches on the subject, such as shark attacks on people taken seriously even though they were slashing up the shark with a machete. While I know that Polynesians have always revered sharks and fed the local resident a part of their catch, but many of them are now extremely cruel to animals of accessibly species. Its a national problem.

 

None of the people I know have had any trouble with sharks attacking or biting people though they have been conducting shark feeding dives for decades.

 

I repeat that my comments are from my own experience only, closely observing the behaviour of sharks at feedings and in their daily lives, and who attends when.

 

With good wishes,

Ila

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...i appreciate it's normally Drew being the spoilsport but as Eric mentioned this website is being used as a source for various 'reputable journalists' around the world. These opinions and words expressed here about the wisdom of sharkfeeding may well be twisted to the detriment of the sharks in general.

Don't use my name in vanity :P This subject was going to inevitably broached. May as well be now. With the amount of bad reporting (no fact checking or worse omission for a better 'angle') going around ( Yes Michelle Kosinski and Evan Benn, I'm talking about you). I'm sure the good folks on WP will keep it sane and refrain from getting personal with comments. A discussion like this could be constructive and instructive.

 

Protect the sharks. Don't feed them unless an emaciated one shows up on your doorstep and begs for food. Don't bait them because predators hate to be teased.

Zippsy, John Bantin's point is that IF there weren't any shark dives in the Bahamas , the sharks would've been hooked long ago. The Bahamian government could be called stupid for doing so but in this very imperfect world, money talks. And in this instance, the survival of the sharks is tied to human activity. As much as I dislike dives of this sort, I have to defer to the practical nature of the business.

 

Ila also brings up a good point. How many of the bites are provoked (hooked sharks, kid grabbing sharks etc) vs unprovoked? Obviously, even if unprovoked is pretty much meaningless to a shark who just wants to eat. Surfers and swimmers in the ocean must accept the 'startling' truth that it's not a swimming pool they are going into. There are risks involved in jumping into the oceans (from jelly fish to industrial pollution). But that's in the dream world. The real world, the majority of people expect the government to make sure everything they do is safely paved for them.

It's territorial establishment behavior of all top predator species. They mark their territory to ensure they survive first. The good news is humans have an added ability to control more aspects of their environment then the others. Only problem is we don't use it much.

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Just another point that should not be overlooked. What happens to all the food waste generated by the endless numbers of ships ploughing the oceans? It is dumped off the stern. Oceanic whitetip sharks now are attracted to the sound of the big dive boats that visit reefs like the Elphinstone in the Red Sea because it is near a major shipping lane in a confined area of sea. Unaware of the reason the sharks are there, divers benefit from close encounters and claim that you do not need to feed sharks to attract them! Feeding sharks will go on whether dive boats do it or not.

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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…

James,

 

There's a key difference between riding bulls or broncos and creating encounters with sharks through the use of chumming and/or baiting, and that difference is actually right there in your analogy. It's in that word "wild" and it's in the domesticated animals you chose as analogous to sharks.

 

The sharks in question are indeed wild and are therefore able to practice both instinctive and learned behaviors on other days or in other uncontrolled situations, whereas penned rodeo bulls and broncos are contained and are essentially only able to interact with people who do indeed choose to interact with them. (Unless someone falls into the pen from the stands...) A cowboy can go ride a bull and it won't make a bit of difference to other people because that bull is not likely to wander down the street and onto someone's front lawn. On the other hand, a wild shark that has learned to behave differently, even if that new behavior is merely to be less shy around humans, is able by virtue of its freedom and capacity for learning to exhibit those learned behaviors around other people who did not sign up for Jim's shark dive and have no good reason to think that the shark cruising by them on above the eelgrass is going to be aggressive or "friendly" rather than evasive and shy. And those new behaviors could lead to something really tragic. Perhaps the shark that an experienced diver expects to steer clear, as most sharks do, actually goes in for a bite—because it learned from its experiences with humans, boats, divers, and chum that humans and food often go hand in hand. (Not that operant conditioning needs to occur for this to happen. Habituation can be enough to make a wild animal get closer and then other instincts can take over. 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.

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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

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So one person has been killed on a shark dive since shark dives started. Can someone tell me how many people have been killed by gunfire in the USA during the same period?

 

Isn't it time people got things into perspective and looked at where the real problems lie?

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James,

 

There's a key difference between riding bulls or broncos and creating encounters with sharks through the use of chumming and/or baiting, and that difference is actually right there in your analogy. It's in that word "wild" and it's in the domesticated animals you chose as analogous to sharks.

 

The sharks in question are indeed wild and are therefore able to practice both instinctive and learned behaviors on other days or in other uncontrolled situations, whereas penned rodeo bulls and broncos are contained and are essentially only able to interact with people who do indeed choose to interact with them. (Unless someone falls into the pen from the stands...) A cowboy can go ride a bull and it won't make a bit of difference to other people because that bull is not likely to wander down the street and onto someone's front lawn. On the other hand, a wild shark that has learned to behave differently, even if that new behavior is merely to be less shy around humans, is able by virtue of its freedom and capacity for learning to exhibit those learned behaviors around other people who did not sign up for Jim's shark dive and have no good reason to think that the shark cruising by them on above the eelgrass is going to be aggressive or "friendly" rather than evasive and shy. And those new behaviors could lead to something really tragic. Perhaps the shark that an experienced diver expects to steer clear, as most sharks do, actually goes in for a bite—because it learned from its experiences with humans, boats, divers, and chum that humans and food often go hand in hand. (Not that operant conditioning needs to occur for this to happen. Habituation can be enough to make a wild animal get closer and then other instincts can take over. 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.

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. So far there is no data that I am aware of that this is true. The overwhelming majority of articles and anecdotes that I am aware of indicate that sharks only attack humans in two types of situation: The first situation is when sharks mistakenly believe a human to be non-human food such as a surfer who resembles a seal on the surface. The other situation, as appears to have been the case in the present situation, was that a human was so close to the food that the shark mistakenly attacked the human while closing in on the food. Anyone who has closely watched sharks closing in on bait has seen the nictitating eye membrane that covers the sharks eye's during the last moments as the shark closes in. 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. The actual details of this attack have not yet been completely clarified, so I may stand corrected, but every indication at this time is that this attack fell into the second category. 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.

Edited by loftus

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Zippsy, John Bantin's point is that IF there weren't any shark dives in the Bahamas , the sharks would've been hooked long ago. The Bahamian government could be called stupid for doing so but in this very imperfect world, money talks. And in this instance, the survival of the sharks is tied to human activity. As much as I dislike dives of this sort, I have to defer to the practical nature of the business.

 

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.

 

In Austria and Germany some media reports were supportive on baiting sharks but abolished shark feeding. The difference between baiting or feeding them does not matter very much to me. I think, as a diver during a feed you have to be more careful and watch out for the bait occasionally floating around. But this can also happen with enough chum and current. Furthermore with any shark that is large enough to carry away a bait crate or even crack it. Bottom line is that all shark divers need to constantly monitor current and all bait sources, no matter if these are secured or not. Speculating about the increased likelihood to get bitten during a shark-feed versus a shark-bait event is splitting hairs, I think.

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On the other hand, a wild shark that has learned to behave differently, even if that new behavior is merely to be less shy around humans, is able by virtue of its freedom and capacity for learning to exhibit those learned behaviors around other people who did not sign up for Jim's shark dive...

 

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

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Andi, Drew, John - I don't want all diving in Bahamas to be stopped. I just don't like the idea of feeding / baiting. I think divers would still go here without the shark attracting dives and that would still keep the finners at bay.

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I am off to the Bahamas in 3 weeks and the only reason is for the shark dives. If in the future things change I would not go back!! NO SHARK DIVES- NONE OF MY TOURIST MONEY!! I think that's a clear message. I am sure I am not the only one anyone else feel that strong?

Edited by Aqua Luminous

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As divers and protectors of the oceans and the sharks that we all love to dive with, arent we responsible to figure out how we can dive with sharks and not have future incidents like this? How much damage has been done to the Shark diving industry and the sport of diving with such amazing predators. Because of this event what will happen now? Will diving with sharks using an attractant be outlawed? I hope not. There is still much to learn about sharks and having the ability to have them come to you to observe whatever behavior you may see is a bennefit for research as well as a vehicle to promote awareness of these animals.

 

Now as a dive community we need to let the idea of diving un-protected with any type of baited in predator die on the table. Many have told me opinions on why the moral majority of divers should accept the fact that it will always be dangerous do dive and live for that matter and that protection from baited in predators in a SCUBA dive is not necessary. Many people have told me that this act of diving un-protected is their right, and it should not be infringed on.

 

This issue IMO is not about personal rights, rather about conservation of the sea. With the vast majority of people that make decisions regarding the future of the ocean being non-divers, it is irresponsible for a person who claims to love the sea to put its creatures in jeporday by participating in an event that has the potential to affect the very creatures we claim to want to protect in a negative way. By attracting predators we call them to us, by our will we bring them to us. Then we get in the water with them and hope their peanut size brains and pure instinct will enable them to make the right decision all the time. After all if they bite a diver it will reflect bad on the shark, not the diver.

 

It is the Moral responsibility of Shark dive operations to protect its customers from sharks. They have the same responsibility to protect the sharks from the divers. If you bait in a shark and put an unprotected diver in with it, you are now putting the shark at risk. The animal in its million years of perfection just may decide that the feeding opportunity it came for on auto-pilot is your foot. Of course we all know that the shark does not really want to eat your foot so after he bites it he spits the foul bony tasting thing out of its mouth.

 

Now instead of going home and showing off all of the cool shark pics and getting their friend to vote on anti-shark fin legislation,

 

shark57.jpg

 

They get to spend 4 times the amount of the suit (at least) to re-hab from the injuries. Why? What is the reason?

 

 

Now another "shark attack" has occoured and people care less about the millions that are killed each year, for food, finned, or just plain killed by idiots who want to say that......."Got this shark last year, got its teeth out in the garage. We got that thing on the boat and it almost bit so and so's leg off. Yea, I killed it though, it was a real battle.....did ya hear that a diver was killed by one not to long ago...."

 

A shark protection suit costs $4,600us. If a shark operator charges $3,000 per person for a week, and they take out 10 people that is $30,000. 6 month operating window per year you have 24 weeks. Total rev for the season, 720k. If you are in business for a couple of seasons that is $1,440,000. The price of equiping an operation with protective gear is about 50k. The suits never go bad, they dont have moving parts, and they are 3 piece so they fit most anyone.

 

For that amount of money there is no reason that anyone should be diving with a shark dive operator un-protected. There is no reason to dive un-protected other than to use it as an ego crutch at the company water cooler. In fact you can get better shots because the focus can be on the shot instead of the 2 reefsharks sniffing your leg. There is no downside to redundant saftey protocol, it is the professional way to manage relative risk scenarios in highly volatile theaters of operation, and all professionals know this. As a professional operator it is your duty to supply this type of saftey to your customers out of moral responsibility.

 

If we as divers want to continue to search out and interact with these types of predators we need to set at least an operational standard so that through our actions we dont end up harming the very resource we intend to protect. Others see that we are a group of intelligent people that flock towards safe operations and will self regulate when needed, and that people that dive with sharks are not rogue idiots that will needlessly endanger themselves for an ego boost. Rather, Shark divers are a reasonable group of people that through their growing knowledge of the animals they love will embrace any type of ideas that will make the sport safer for all included and promote the activity for years to come.

 

GTB

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