Dealing with shark bite incident on Shear Water

jim and me

I have been working non-stop over the last two days to help my good friend, Jim Abernethy, whose shark diving operation has just experienced the first mortality from shark bite in the history of organized shark diving. I've been keeping an up-to-date webpage on Wetpixel that lists the details of the bite along with stories in the media (that all say the "attack" was in Florida, for some reason).

My friend, Rob Stewart, will be on the Today Show and CNN tomorrow. Although he will officially be on the show to talk about his film, Sharkwater, we're all sure that they're going to be talking primarily about this shark bite incident. Its is likely they will be using footage from Shark Angels, a project I have been involved with since November.

If you are a supporter of Jim Abernethy or of cageless shark dives in the Bahamas, please help!

  1. Leave a testimonial for Jim Abernethy, Markus Groh (bite victim), or Shear Water crew.
  2. Sign the petition in support of shark diving in the Bahamas.
  3. Write to the Bahamas Diving Association and local media expressing support for Jim Abernethy and his operation.

a bull shark in the bahamas

Neal Watson, the president of the Bahamas Diving Association and owner of Neal Watson's Undersea Adventures, has been blasting Jim all over the news. All news outlets list him as president of BDA and ignore the fact that he owns a competing shark diving organization. Watson's shark dives are also cageless and baited, but they are different because he actively feeds sharks while divers are in the water (feeding is different than baiting) and claims that he doesn't do cageless shark dives with the "10 dangerous species" of sharks. But then, Watson includes lemon sharks in that list, which immediately gives it no credibility. Also, how do you keep a tiger shark away? Is there some sort of magic underwater fence he uses?

As someone who represents the BDA, I don't see how Watson can attack Jim without also attacking his own operation or operations like the Dolphin Dream and Gulf Stream Eagle, who both do the exact same dives. It gets even stranger: the Dolphin Dream is a member of the Bahamas Diving Association! Dolphin Dream claims that they do "caged or cageless dives where [they] chum and shark feed these large top predators," referring to their operation with tiger sharks and great hammerhead sharks. No one I know who has been on the Dolphin Dream has ever been in a cage. So how can the BDA be attacking cageless dives with big sharks, when they do it themselves?

Furthermore, Shark Diver, who has openly criticized Jim Abernethy for doing cageless dives with the "dangerous" sharks on BDA's list, openly advertises that they do cageless dives with lemon sharks. The Tiburon, which is often booked by Shark Diver, says "Note: Unlike Tigers, Caribbean Reef sharks and Lemon Sharks are considered a 'safer' shark species. We do cage-less dives with these animals but always have a safety diver in place and do not chum on these dives. The encounters here are completely natural and occur because these reefs are pristine." Now, anyone who has been to the Bahamas knows that lemon sharks are found where tiger sharks are found. So again, how do you prevent tigers from coming in?

So that actually makes 3 dive operators other than Jim Abernethy that do the same dives.

I certainly respect Watson for his opinions; after all, everyone is free to have them even if there are disagreements. My problem is that people need to be responsible about how they present the argument to the media. Watson went off on Jim, despite a member of his own association doing the same dives Jim does. So you can see how Watson's hypocrisy might have pissed of some people.

In the meantime, all we can do is support Markus Groh and his family, Jim Abernethy, and all shark diving operations in the Bahamas.