Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"Tiger Beach Freedom" - setting the record straight

When I wrote the other blog earlier today I did not fully realize that it looked as if it was directed at Jim Abernethy of Scuba Adventures.

It was not.

In fact, I consider Jim as a most professional operator in the shark diving world, definitely one of the best world-wide. I also know him as a very passionate sharkman.

What I wanted to transmit in my blog is that
I, the old Wolf, need unrestricted diving freedom the way I need air to breathe. That is just my personality, and that is why I have never joined a club or a structured association.

While Scott Smith of the Dolphin Dream lets me freedive with no strings attached, which I consider a very generous attitude, I realize that there are other ways to look at safety issues. "Safety" is a very relative concept, hence interpreting it will always be highly subjective and never "right".

Take Neal Watson, for instance: This shark operator who claims to have expert knowledge thinks that diving with Caribbean Reef Sharks is "much less dangerous" than diving with tiger sharks. Well, all I can say is that I am much more apprehensive of an agitated 5 ft Caribbean Reef shark than I am of being close to a 14 ft tiger shark in a baiting situation.

Back to Jim - Jim is known for his way of running a tight ship, and he has countless fans who would never, ever switch.

Scott, on the other hand, has followers who feel very comfortable with the way he leads his excursions to Tiger Beach. I am one of those.

To erase the slightest doubts about my full appreciation of Jim, here is what
I wrote about him not long ago.


Florida Legal said...

Wolf you bring up a good point. Jimmy was responsible for shark diving death this spring. The legal argument of all this below.

A 49 year old Austrian attorney died after being bitten by a shark in the Bahamas with Jim Abernethy's Scuba Adventures (JASA). The deceased was on a shark feeding trip where the sharks are baited using chum and the participants are not in cages. The shark apparently missed the food, bit the leg of the deceased and released him. However he bled out before he could be transported to help. See When Adventure Tourism Kills, Tourist's death sparks shark-diving debate and Sharing the Truth About the Shark "Attack" in the Bahamas.

Shark watching is big business. It has grown substantially over the past several years. Florida has numerous shark feeding businesses; however Florida law does not allow chumming. The (JASA) had moved from Florida to the Bahamas allegedly to avoid the law.

Ignoring the issues of training sharks to associate food with boats and humans the articles have tackled numerous legal issues, some correctly, some incorrectly.

There has been an extensive debate over the civil legal issues in this case. However the accident occurred in the Bahamas with a non-US citizen so US law does not apply. Bahamian or the law of the release (if one was used) will probably control any litigation. Admiralty law may be the law applied to the case which although more generic by country is still not US law. For more information on jurisdiction and venue See: Pennsylvania court case highlights importance of where a business is located, Jurisdiction can affect the potential outcome of a case and Choice of Law and Venue — What Law Applies and Where? (Subscription Service)

Another raging debate is the fact that cage-less shark feeding is relatively a less risk sport. A group called Shark Savers, is defending the acts by saying that shark diving is safer than many other sports. However the sports they are comparing themselves too are unguided sports. There is a higher level of care or safety expected and received from a guided trip then from an unguided trip. That is why you hire a guide, to provide you with the knowledge, skills or safety from the risks that you do not have.

Shark Savers also states that "biking, swimming and boating" have significantly more injuries a year than shark feeding. This is probably correct. However the number of hours that people spend feeding sharks a year versus biking, swimming or boating does not make a fair comparison. If shark feeding had as many people spending as many hours feeding sharks as people riding bikes then the number of injuries would be significantly more. The website is comparing apples to oranges and skewing numbers to make the sport look safe.

There are some real issues however that can be educational. The JASA website is full of statements that would be difficult to support during any accident or could lead to liability in this case. The JASA statements include:

….to provide the very best in diving adventures, in a safe, professional, and fun environment.

Our goal is to insure that whether you are visiting for the day, or staying for a week, you have a safe, fun and memorable trip.

We will have crew members in the water at all times to insure diver safety.

Three prominent statements telling possible guests that they will be safe. And yet someone died. Either the website is wrong, guilty of over promoting itself or this was a rare accident, which statistics show is not true.

On top of that is the fact JASA is a Florida based business. The website is quite clear that they are based in Florida and have a Bahamas operation. If you serve the business in Florida then Florida law may apply, absent a specific jurisdiction and venue clause in a release. Even if there is a release signed by any victim a complaint alleging negligence per se, because of the violation of the regulations may be successful in brining the defendant under Florida law.

Wolf Leander said...

Wow - that was some comment---- As far as I am concerned not relevant to my blog.


I won't respond unless you identify yourself. Or is 'Legal' your family name, and 'Florida' your given name? :-)

So, please let me and the other readers know who you are, and who you represent.

Thank you.

scuba said...

Shark dives are a big business... but there is a costly ticket of responsibility that goes with it.