Following Viral Great White Shark Video, Conservationists Fear Backlash

Video of a great white shark inadvertently breaking into a diving cage went viral earlier this week, and now certain conservationists fear an unwarranted backlash against a practice they feel is essential for revealing the true nature of these apex predators.

The video in question was taken at Guadalupe Island, one of the world’s hotspots for shark cage diving and a noted aggregation site for great whites. Last year, video of a massive white shark named Deep Blue spread online, and it was at Guadalupe where those clips were originally filmed, as the Inquisitr previously reported.

Earlier this month, diver Chan Ming was watching a white shark, camera in hand as the New York Times reports, when the unexpected occurred. Baited to the cage by a handler on the boat, the white shark lunged at a piece of tuna, and instead barreled through the side of Chan’s protective cage. Unable to swim backward and likely disoriented by the experience, the shark thrashed in the enclosure for almost a full minute before it was able to escape to open water through an entry door that had been opened by a prescient tour guide.

Though in the footage it appears that the white shark is acting in an overly aggressive manner, the reality of the situation is somewhat different. Great whites momentarily lose vision when they attempt to bite something, and while they have evolved this trait as a protective measure, it can prove to be a liability. The result in this case, as shark conservationist and founder of the Bimini SharkLab Samuel Gruber told the Guardian, was a situation in which the great white suffered the worst injuries from this incident and not the diver.

“The truth, of course, was that the tourist got more than he bargained for, but on balance the shark came out the worse for wear. Clearly it was bleeding from the gills and from an area near the dorsal fin… It is also clear to me that the shark was attracted to the cage for purposes of exciting footage.”

Gruber noted that he is not opposed to the practice of shark diving, as he considers it an essential means of showcasing the animals’ true nature to a public all too eager to see them as mindless killing machines. He pointed out that an incident of cage breaking, while having transpired before in the past, is still an extreme rarity, much like shark attacks themselves.

Guadalupe Island is hardly the world’s sole destination for shark diving, nor the only place where controversy follows the practice. Several years ago, a photo taken from a dive cage in Gansbaai, South Africa went viral online, as it revealed a great white preparing to strike. At the time, shark researchers voiced their concerns over the practice, asserting that unscrupulous tour groups could unintentionally injure sharks by luring them too close to cages. It is no difficult feat to find video of white sharks ramming dive cages as they chase bait, which is often drawn over the enclosures themselves in an attempt to entice the sharks as closely to the divers as possible.

A managing partner of the vessel Chan booked his tour with stressed that the incident was highly unusual, pointing to the company’s track record of injury free operation since 2004. Chan himself praised the staff onboard and returned to the water the very next day to continue diving, yet the unfortunate incident has left at least one great white shark injured as conservationists defend an entire tourism industry from unusual and possibly unwarranted criticism.

[Featured Image by Elias Levy/ Flickr – Own Work | Cropped and Resized | CC BY 2.0]