The controversial topic of baited shark diving put those in favor and those against at odds with each side making strong points to defend their arguments.
My initial thoughts leaned towards being against them, as I saw nothing natural about attracting sharks with chum. In my younger years as a biology student I clinched at the thought of hunters baiting feeding stations to attract game to shoot it.
In the case of shark diving, the situation is different, divers are shooting at them, but with video and photographs. The truth of the matter based on my own experience is that unless you are fortunate enough to dive in places where sharks are still numerous, you will likely not see any sharks. That is the sad truth.
I decided to participate in a couple of these dives to experience firsthand what people describe as an unforgettable experience. I also wished to capture the moment in video and pictures. Many questions ran through my mind as we approached the dive sites: Are we altering shark behavior by doing this? Are some shark attacks the result of shark chumming? or, are these shark dives helping change public perception and the negative stigma that is sometimes associated with sharks?
The dives were incredible and needless to say unforgettable. Perhaps most significant was a conversation that occurred during a surface interval with a fellow diver, a well off Chinese college student. He was truly touched by the experience and was in awe. He tried shark fin soup and his family paid lots of money for it. During our talk, he told me that he loved the sharks swimming around him and that he was never going to eat shark fin soup again. Furthermore, he said he was going to addressed this issue with his family and friends. I was surprised to hear that, but I do believe that in some cases, exposure to the natural world helps create a connection with nature that can change people’s attitudes, believes, and perceptions. I have seen it happen.
Whatever your position is on baited shark dives, they will remain controversial. The fact of the matter is that these dives might be the only opportunity for many divers to see sharks in the wild. As for me, my position remains neutral and as long as operators provide a safe environment for their clients and the animals they are paying to see, this activity will provide a meaningful opportunity for divers to admire the most misunderstood fish in the ocean.
Posted by Eduardo G. Salcedo on Monday, January 22, 2018