Posted by: letsharkslive | November 22, 2010

Comment by The South African Shark Conservancy

I write on behalf of the South African Shark Conservancy (SASC) – a non-profit research & conservation organisation based in Hermanus, SA, just on the doorstep of the cage diving industry.

I must admit that we have, in the past, also borne witness to some very poor handling/interaction practices within the industry and agree that it not only harms the sharks themselves, but also does significant damage to the reputation of an industry that claims it is driven by conservation & ecotourism values.  Disappointing to say the least.  By the same token, however, we must acknowledge that some industry members are very aware of the impacts of their actions on sharks and thus handle the animals with the utmost care.

Due to what we witnessed in the past SASC developed a great white shark cage diving industry training programme to train staff in a wealth of topics including shark conservation, biology and ecology, as well as impacts of poor industry practices on the ecosystem (including sharks) and best practice actions/responsible cage diving techniques.  Our aim was to also address the very issues mentioned in the emails below.  We are hopefully expanding this to include a day-long training programme for the right holders themselves so they are also made aware of the issues within the industry and cannot claim ignorance.

The first training session of this programme was held over two days in October and, admittedly, was quite poorly attended by the industry.  Only Apex Shark Expeditions, White Shark Ecoventures and White Shark Projects sent staff to the training, although it was heavily advertised to industry members.  During the programme the need for the development of best practices was addressed and recognised by trainees.

As an organisation SASC has been pushing for best practices for several years and we feel an independent body should be responsible for developing these, in conjunction with industry members, and auditing the industry on a biannual basis to determine how well these are implemented by the right holders and their staff.  We have discussed this in detail with Marine and Coastal Management in the past and they support such action.

Thus we propose in this forum that all interested parties attend a meeting at SASC to identify problems, concerns and solutions – working together in an open forum to instigate the change we want to see in the industry.

Please email me directly on so we can liaise further in this regard.

Kind regards,
Meag McCord



  1. There is also another side to this story, that has so far been ignored, at least in this specific topic. It is far too easy to say that when a third party is making a living out of an activity, that they are doing it to make money. I dont know the situation in Carmen but just suppose that there was no bull shark diving, and that the fishermen start targeting them because that what fishermen do all over the world now. Who would be fighting the shark’s corner? Who would have an interest in them, commercial or otherwise if there was not a growing interest in activity from feeding? It is ok to say that you saw them before, in natural surroundings, but you also say that you lived there for months at a time, year after year. What sort of interest would be built arround those sharks if it were not for feeding? Not everyone who goes to Carmen knew of the sharks before the feeding activity, because not that many people have so much time to be able to spend time there.
    One thing is for sure, where we work and do research, bullsharks were wiped out about ten years ago. Regular catches have depleted down to none. In short, they are gone from our area. Bull sharks do not have huge migratory routes, and don’t tend to come back to an area readily if they are wiped out. I would suggest that you unify with whoever is on the shark’s side in Playa del Carmen, even if you do not agree with their intentions. An ally is an allie. At the same time, build a bond of trust with those who you ally yourself with and work toward the common goal of sustainable and responsible working practices that benefit the sharks. The protection must come first though, and if you work against your possible helpers in the fight, you will find that there are no sharks to feed, and no point in regulating the working practices because there will be no work. I personally don’t wholly feel comfortable feeding sharks, I would much rather see them in large naturally occuring aggregation sites, but the truth is that shark encounters do generate a wider sentiment to protect them.

  2. The global industry should take a look at our baiting and conservation efforts to date and come up with a unified plan for both. I understand this is a tall order, but the confluence of shark loss, habitat loss, and front line commercial shark diving demands it.

    Every industry matures and ours is poised to become much more if individuals can begin to see the shark resource as a sustainable resource first.

    We wrote about the need for this growth in 2008:

    There’s an old French saying “Noblesse Oblige.”

    It roughly translates in to Noble Obligation.

    Those that are on the front lines of an issue and can effect change have a noble obligation to do so.

    Which gets us to the state of commercial shark diving worldwide. The industry is valued at $200-300 million dollars and for the most part, operators are content to show divers sharks, make money and repeat. Without a doubt the current state of “Noblesse Oblige” in our industry is at an all time low.

    Let me qualify this statement before the angry emails start. In our world effecting change with sharks goes beyond just interacting with these animals on a commercial level or aligning ourselves with non profits who are doing all the heavy lifting. You have to be engaged, you have to create directional focus and motivate people-who might not consider it-to be active in the shark community. Let’s face it with 80 million sharks being killed each and every year there’s little room anymore for fence sitters who are content to just make money diving with sharks.

    Operators should be bound by “Noblesse Oblige” to create conservation efforts outside their operations. Real and lasting projects that further the protection of sharks, shark science, and conservation.

    Having said this there are some simply stunning projects out there that are fully supported by many forward thinking commercial shark diving operations. They are, unfortunately, the minority of the industry and we can do much better beyond a few online petitions, some POS material on a vessel, and an eco chat with our guests.

    As front line sentinels, operators from California to South Africa are often the first to report trouble, and have a key insight into the health and direction of local shark populations. One of the misnomers is that real and effective shark conservation costs a lot of money, it does not.

    It does take time and effort beyond operations.

    There are many within the shark community who are trying to make 2009 The Year of the Sharks-to that may we add “Tiburon Noblesse Oblige.” The hope that operations worldwide look to where they can become involved, create local efforts, websites, focus and direction.

    We cannot allow NGO’s to shoulder the shark conservation burden alone. Noblesse Oblige can and will effect lasting change for shark conservation. Time is a luxury that sharks, unfortunately, do not have.

    Patric Douglas CEO

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