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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

AP Story -- Man Dies from Shark Attack!

I just sent this story to my friend, Tom (see next post). What can I say, Stuff Happens. I built my own six man shark cage and took shark diving trips aboard the Finback for three years. I would still be doing it if not for the decline in shark populations in the Gulf of Maine. That's me with my shark cage on the stern of Finback below:

To save you the trouble of following a link I've taken the liberty of posting the AP Story:
Feb 25, 11:20 PM EST

Man Dies After Shark Attack Off Florida

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- An Austrian tourist died Monday after being bitten by a shark while diving near the Bahamas in waters that had been baited with bloody fish parts to attract the predators.

Markus Groh, 49, a Vienna lawyer and diving enthusiast, was on a commercial dive trip Sunday when he was bitten about 50 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, said Karlick Arthur, Austrian counsel general in Miami.

Groh was in the open water without a cage or similar protection.

The crew aboard the Shear Water, of Riviera Beach-based Scuba Adventures, immediately called the U.S. Coast Guard, which received a mayday from the vessel, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Nick Ameen.

Groh was airlifted to a hospital, where he died. Groh was bitten on the leg, Ameen said, but he could not be more specific about the extent of his injuries.

It was unclear what type of shark was involved in the attack. The shark got away before anyone could identify the species.

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation by the Miami-Dade Police Department. A telephone message left for police was not immediately returned.

A woman who answered the telephone at Scuba Adventures on Monday said the company had no comment.

The company's Web site says it offers the opportunity to get "face to face" with sharks. The site explains that its hammerhead and tiger shark expeditions in the Bahamas are "unique shark trips ... run exclusively for shark enthusiasts and photographers."

To ensure "the best results we will be 'chumming' the water with fish and fish parts," the Web site explains. "Consequently, there will be food in the water at the same time as the divers. Please be aware that these are not 'cage' dives, they are open water experiences."

A word of caution to divers interested in taking shark diving trips:

You should check out your dive operation thoroughly before making reservations. Make sure it isn't some fly-by-night outfit, or one with a track record of accidents and/or law suits. I'm not saying this one above is such an outfit. However, as a former shark dive trip operator myself, I can honestly say every one of us are in it to make a buck. I ran a SHARK CAGE diving trip, which meant no going outside the cage. My cage didn't even have door openings on the sides.

Don't get me wrong, diving with sharks without a cage doesn't have to be high risk. It depends on the situation and the sharks. Look at Tom's dive below: For one thing, they're on the bottom, which means they only have to worry about what's above them and to the sides. The worst direction -- the down direction -- is of no concern. The sharks are also corralled by their source of food, almost being hand fed, and the participants are surrounding the sharks; they're not swimming freely in a chum slick. Moreover, Tom is sharing the water with reef sharks, not tigers and hammerheads. The tiger is one of the top three man killers, the other two being the bull and the great white.

Safety may not be a top priority to some operators. For some, the top priority might be a combination of thrills and, of course, money. You get the thrills, and they make the money. If you're going offshore 50 miles to swim with tigers and hammerheads, and you're in deep water, with your feet dangling below you, the bottom more than 200' away, surrounded by a chum slick and a bunch of active, possible frenzied animals; if at the same time you have more than two or three people in the water with you, then some of you are in a very high risk situation, regardless of who's running the show.

A word about chum. A chummer can lull a bunch of sharks into a collective state of calm, almost as if they're hypnotized, or he can wait for the right time and start chunking up larger pieces of fish and guts and get a frenzy going.


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