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Expert Calls For Shark Dive Ban After Fatality

photo

A picture previously taken at Tiger Beach.

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

EXPERT Bahamian diver and spear-fisherman David Rose says shark diving and feeding is an “unsafe” practice and should be banned in the Bahamas.

He was speaking following the death of an American, reportedly the victim of a shark attack, who disappeared off Grand Bahama on a shark-diving trip on Sunday.

“It is not a safe practice ... but the tourism lobby is so powerful in this country they do not want to scare people off because they make good money doing this,” said Mr Rose, a professional commercial diver and spear-fisherman of some 40 years.

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 $80 million a year and has banned shark fishing in its waters in a move to secure this “tourism goldmine.”

US commercial dive operators bring groups on shark diving and feeding expeditions to the Bahamas and divers have been fatally attacked in the past. On Sunday, the Florida-based Jim Abernethy Scuba Adventures (JASA) lost a diver off West End during a shark diving expedition.

Dr John Petty, a 63-year-old chiropractor from Longview, Texas, disappeared while diving with eight others from the Shear Water. His camera and shredded dive gear were recovered from the water and the search for him by US Coast Guard and Bahamian authorities was called off on Wednesday.

In a statement a Petty family spokesman said: “After the Bahamian government studied the items recovered in numerous searches, it has been determined that a shark attack was the cause.”

The diving expedition on Sunday was to Tiger Beach, a renowned location 20 miles north west of West End, Grand Bahama. The divers routinely – during daylight hours – dive among tiger sharks lured with bait.

Michael Stroschim, manager of JASA, said he believed that Dr Petty was the victim of a drowning and not a shark attack, even though the dive gear recovered was shredded. He told The Tribune yesterday that the buckles on Dr Petty’s dive gear were undone when it was found.

“The evidence does not point to a shark attack in this case,” he said. “The diver most likely was separated underwater in a current, and we believe he probably ran out of air because of the way the gear was found, and then was disoriented and unable to get back to the boat – and most likely it is a drowning incident.”

“The most important thing with the dive gear is that the buckles were unbuckled – a shark can’t do that. We believe that, of course, it was not a shark attack as there are many factors pointing it was not.”

JASA 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. Mr Rose, of Grand Bahama, believes that shark feeding by human hands is dangerous and should be prohibited as in the US. “Any animals in the wild are programmable and once you teach them something they don’t forget it and in any State park in the US they tell you do not feed the animals,” he said.

“Scuba diving, shark feeding and shark diving is outlawed in all state and federal waters in the US.”

Mr Rose recalled a past fatal incident three or four years ago by the commercial dive company in the Great Isaacs near Bimini. He said other popular shark dive sites are Shark Junction, on the south side of Grand Bahama, and Memory Rock.

“Sharks have always been a challenge, but they can become more of a challenge when they gather in large groups where they are getting free food. As a spear fisherman it poses a significant challenge if I encounter a shark that has been already taught it can get food from a diver,” Mr Rose said.

Mr Rose said if shark feeding was not dangerous, divers would not need to wear a suit of armour when feeding them. There are a lot of big sharks in the area of Memory Rock and that tiger sharks could grow to be 18 to 20 feet.

The commercial diver said a number of things could have happened when Dr Petty went missing. “Gear can malfunction, etc. But there are tiger sharks that have tried to bite photographers’ camera underwater which was recently broadcast on ABC news.”

In February 2012, a similar incident occurred in waters off Cat Island when conservationist Russell Easton was photographing a 12ft tiger shark. It was reported that sharks were attracted to cameras and bit that instead, allowing Mr Russell to escape without injury.

“I think shark feeding and diving is just as dangerous as feeding bears in Yellow Stone National Park, and eventually you are going to run into a shark,” Mr Rose said. “You are talking about a big shark that can eat a man whole. They are turtle hunters and are known to be able to gobble a turtle, even a loggerhead turtle – they can crush up the shell and eat it.”

Mr Stroschim stated that sharks do not attack human beings. “Sharks investigate humans, and in this case (with Dr Petty) what we believe is that the individual had a drowning incident which is not uncommon in scuba diving.”

“There was information that there were marks on the gear found that might indicate that the diver was attacked by a shark. But what we know is that anything lying on the bottom of the ocean, the sharks investigate it to see if it is a food source, but they don’t approach living people, which is why there are so many shark expeditions that go on.” In Longview, Dr Petty was remembered as a man with an “adventurous spirit.” A memorial service is expected to be held tomorrow at the town’s First Baptist Church. A reception will follow at Longview Museum of Fine Arts, where some of Dr Petty’s underwater photography will be on display.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 5 years, 2 months ago

I can't see how it could be a shark attack with 8 people in the water. No one saw or heard anything? No one noticed the blood in the water?

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kmac 5 years, 2 months ago

It was a night dive. However, you would think they would have used the buddy system.

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Cindy 5 years, 2 months ago

Where does it say it was a night dive?

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kmac 5 years, 2 months ago

In my opinion it was a terrible idea to be chumming sharks and diving with them in the dark. As awesome as sharks are, they are still wild.

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kmac 5 years, 2 months ago

"but they don’t approach living people" Go to youtube and search for: Tiger Shark Near Miss!!! Then reread that quote.

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BiminiHomeowner 5 years, 2 months ago

The common link (as far as i can tell) between the two shark diving fatalities in The Bahamas is the American operator who is conducting the dives. One US dive company has now lost TWO divers in the past few years, while DOZENS of Bahamian companies conduct similar dives on a daily basis?

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 2 months ago

Hello!!!!!!!!! These are stupid white Americans who illegally enter and do these "night dives" in our waters ................. then when SHIT happens, they want to smear us???????? We gatta stop taking shit from these assholes ............ just like the illegal Haitians, drugs and guns crap

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BahamianFisherman 5 years, 2 months ago

American environmental groups pass laws in the Bahamas protecting sharks , now Americans are feeding sharks for profit , knowing shark feeding endangers divers and leads to the deaths of hundreds of overly friendly sharks . Something is wrong with this picture !

Ps ..shark feeding is against the law in Florida ; don't take advantage of the lack of laws in our third world country .

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captjohnr3 5 years, 2 months ago

Please sign our petition to protect sharks from men arrested in Palm Beach County Florida.. See FWC on arrest information at http://bit.ly/1hDQj6d">http://bit.ly/1hDQj6d

Sign our petition here http://chn.ge/1lyxhtG">http://chn.ge/1lyxhtG Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/FlaDive">https://www.facebook.com/FlaDive Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/CaptJohnRuss...">https://www.facebook.com/CaptJohnRuss...

Thanks, John Russell

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Mtesaw 5 years, 2 months ago

Ii see several things that went wrong with this dive... I've never done an intentional shark dive but have done plenty of dives where we knew there was a high possibility of sharks and you take precautions. Petty was not a new diver. I have a hard time believing the current just carried him off. Usually on a dive boat you have two divers employed by the company. One leads the dive and the other follows. You go to the bottom as a group. They lost a guy in the first 10 minutes of the dive. Maybe he did get separated and sucked down his air or maybe it was a shark. I think poor planning on the dive crew was a problem.

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sheeprunner12 5 years, 2 months ago

Hope the US Embassy in Nassau take a note of these illegal US diving operations exploiting our waters while making big profits .........and put that in their next Report ...................... SMDH

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kandfoto 5 years, 2 months ago

I have done many shark dives, including one in Australia, and every shark dive we had two dive guides with us at all times. I have done shark dives in Australia, Turks & Caicos, with the Aquacat, and many shark dives in Grand Bahamas. Also, all the times I have encountered sharks while diving. In Australia, we had to be in cages when they fed the sharks and there was no dive guide associated with the feeding of sharks . . . it was handle by ropes. Having said that, I have never dove on Abernethy's Scuba Adventure (JASA) but I know plenty of divers who have. I did not know John Petty personally but he was my friend on Facebook and I followed his photography. He was a member of a scuba club that I belong to. Many of my friends and members knew John personally and had dived with him on many trips. He was an experienced diver who could handle himself in strong currents. He ran marathons so I don't think (however I do not know for sure) that he had any "medical" condition. Since I was not there nor do I have privy to any undisclosed information, I will reserve judgment on JASA's operations. However, in my opinion, there are many unanswered questions . . . if there was current, then why weren't others in the dive group swept away as well? Was the dive operator the last man to surface? Was there two dive guides watching the divers and the sharks looking for aggressive behavior? If dive guides were with the divers, did they count heads before surfacing? Were they the last to surface? This is a terrible tragedy, as was the lost of the Austrian diver a few years ago. I only hope there will be a serious and thorough investigation by US officials as well as Bahamian officials.

http://tribune242.com/users/photos/20...">http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..." alt="This photo was taken on a shark dive in the Bahamas with the liveaboard diveboat, Aquacat.">

http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin...">This photo was taken on a shark dive in the Bahamas with the liveaboard diveboat, Aquacat. by kandfoto

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stephiedib 5 years, 2 months ago

The spokesman for the dive operation said that the buckles were unlocked on the equipment ffound and that a shark could not do that, therefore he said it was not a shark attack but a drowning. If I were a diver, and a shark attacked me from behind, The first thing I would probably do, is release me gear and hope that the shark choked on it, as I tried to get away as fast as possible.

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BahamianFisherman 5 years, 2 months ago

Do Americans Realize that when they "Tame " a shark and train them to beg for food ; when they beg the next Bahamian diver or fisherman for food they get speared , power headed , or hooked on deck and bleed out ! Bahamians fear of tame sharks may or may not be justified ; it doesn't matter , tame sharks will be killed when they get too friendly with the wrong Bahamian .

Note : a reef shark may stay at the scuba dive cite where Bahamians avoid ; but tigers and hammerheads have wide ranges

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captjohnr3 5 years, 2 months ago

Please sign our petition to protect sharks from charter boats in Palm Beach County Florida.. See FWC on arrest information at http://bit.ly/1hDQj6d">http://bit.ly/1hDQj6d

Sign our petition here http://chn.ge/1lyxhtG">http://chn.ge/1lyxhtG Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/FlaDive">https://www.facebook.com/FlaDive Friend me at https://www.facebook.com/CaptJohnRuss...">https://www.facebook.com/CaptJohnRuss...

Thanks, John Russell

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captjohnr3 2 years, 9 months ago

'Stop Shark Feeding Tours' Published on July 19, 2016

A Bill that would ban SCUBA divers from feeding sharks in U.S. waters introduced in Congress

Some SCUBA diving operators use bait or chum to attract sharks so that their customers can get an up close and personal encounter. A new bill that would make this practice illegal in all U.S. waters has just been introduced into Congress. Section 3 of S. 3099, the “Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016”

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Stop Shark Feeding Tours

Please contact your US Representatives bit.ly/2ixq2vf and US Senator bit.ly/2ioSEs5 and ask them to vote YES on S.3099 http://bit.ly/2jvKta2">http://bit.ly/2jvKta2 By U.S. Senator Bill Nelson bit.ly/2isEv86

Shark Detective John Russell http://bit.ly/sharkdetective">http://bit.ly/sharkdetective

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/florid...">https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/florid...

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theundertaker 2 years ago

Of coarse they its a drowning they don't want to say it was a shark attack they stand to lose millions of dollars if they ban the shark dives I seriously doubt a shredded dive suit was done by a current. Go ahead cover up the death and more people will die evechally you'll have to face the facts

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