By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
WEST END, Grand Bahama, has been ranked among the top 10 most shark-infested beaches in the world. There have been two fatal shark encounters in the area – the most recent last month - at Tiger Beach, which is a renowned location 20 miles northwest of West End.
According to TheRichest.com, Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa, is ranked number one in the world, with West End coming in second.
Grand Bahama has several shark diving sites, but Tiger Beach is perhaps the most popular. Bahamian and US dive operators conduct group dive expeditions there.
There are a high concentration of sharks, from tiger sharks, hammerheads, blacktips and bull sharks.
Tiger Beach has been described as a “veritable condo association of tiger sharks that scares away even the most experienced professional divers”.
The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) Report for 2014 indicates that of the 64 shark attacks worldwide, two occurred in the Bahamas.
It further reported that there were five fatal attacks, one of those occurring in the Bahamas.
The ISAF website warns that its site is a research tool used by Shark Attack Survivors to better their efforts, contact other shark victims and monitor trends in current (up to the minute) and past shark–human incidents from around the world.
On July 13, American Chiropractor Dr John Petty, 63, of Longview, Texas, disappeared while diving with eight others from the Shear Water during a shark dive expedition at Tiger Beach. His camera and shredded dive gear were recovered from the water. His body has not been found.
Bahamian and US authorities are still investigation his disappearance.
Jim Abernethy Scuba Adventures, the operators of the Shear Water, conducts three to four dive expeditions a month in the Bahamas and has been in the business for over two decades. However, it is not the first time that the company has had a fatal incident.
In 2008, it lost a client, Austrian lawyer Markus Groh, to a fatal shark attack and three years later Mr Abernethy – a well-known and controversial figure in diving – was bitten on the arm by what was believed to be a lemon shark while diving in the Bahamas. He was airlifted to a Florida hospital for treatment.
Though thousands of tourists dive with sharks at Tiger Beach without incident each year, the location has been the site of several close calls and tense moments. The cageless shark-diving there remains a major draw for those wanting to hand-feed the larger sharks.
Shark dive tourism is a multi-million-dollar industry and the Bahamas is probably considered the shark dive capital of the world. DiveTalking online reports that the country earns about $80m a year and has banned shark fishing in its waters in a move to secure this “tourism goldmine.”
Last month, a foreign expedition team onboard the Caribe Dancer were diving with sharks at Tiger Beach. The film is posted on Youtube.
Expert commercial diver and spear-fisherman David Rose, of Grand Bahama believes that shark diving and feeding is a dangerous practice that should be banned as it has been in the United States.
Shark Week 2014 began on Sunday on the Discovery Channel, with 14 programmes scheduled before it ends next Sunday.