THE news that a 21-year-old American woman was killed in a shark attack while swimming off Rose Island has been a shock both here and abroad.
Rose Island has long been a favourite spot for tourists and Bahamians alike – Jordan Lindsey’s death while snorkeling could have been almost any one of us.
We certainly all feel shocked that it happened – but should we be quite so shocked that it was possible that it happened?
The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources issued a public advisory after the attack, and one of the first things they have warned about is to warn people not to clean or discard fish waste in the water.
Simply put, such a practice puts blood into the water – and that attracts sharks. We have heard anecdotal concerns about how fish vendors in particular places are not careful enough about disposing of fish waste, and putting blood in the water too close to populated areas. We hope this warning is well heeded by such vendors – but also that members of the ministry will carry out inspections to enforce that.
Perhaps more worrying though is a practice that is not condemned by the ministry.
The diving sector is a $70m industry in The Bahamas – and one of the practices that concerns have already been raised about is chumming.
Chumming is when bloody meat or other material is thrown into the water to feed sharks. That attracts sharks – which makes a great sight for visitors, perhaps, but sharks drawn to an area by blood can include more dangerous predators from the species, that might do serious damage to a swimmer by mistake.
As environmentalist Joe Darville said yesterday, if chumming is done, people should not be in the water. It only takes a shark snapping at the chum and making contact with a diver for tragic circumstances to ensue.
We do not know the circumstances behind this incident yet – though we expect a full investigation. There are a number of professional marine operators in The Bahamas, and we would hope they will be eager to provide as much information as they can to the investigation to establish if chumming was being done in the area, and to help make clear what happened.
More than that, we would hope that starting with the larger operators, they work to ensure that chumming is not used as a means of attracting sharks, and especially not when people are in the water. And if they don’t, then regulators should lay down the rules to be enforced.
A tragedy has happened already. We must work to ensure there is not another.
The end of an era
Last night marked the end of an era in more ways than one.
Dame Marguerite Pindling’s departure from the role of Governor General also saw The Bahamas without a Pindling in public office.
It’s perhaps fitting that it comes in the approach to Independence celebrations, the anniversary of that change that saw a newly independent country elect Dame Marguerite’s husband, Sir Lynden, as its first prime minister.
In her farewell address, Dame Marguerite issued a call for something that perhaps might not have been seen as much in public life as it ought to be – unity.
“It is never too late to move with purpose to a higher, loftier plane,” she said. “We need to rise above divisiveness and acrimony and come together on common ground to build up this nation.”
Both Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Opposition leader Phillip ‘Brave’ Davis were there to applaud her speech. We’ll see if they take up her challenge – and set aside political sniping for the sake of progress.
And again, that call is timely, with Independence celebrations around the corner – when we shall be singing of lifting up our heads, and be reminded of the national motto.
Forward. Upward. Onward. But most of all, together.