Is it dangerous to dive with sharks?
Of the thousands of dives, there are very few accidents. In the files that record shark attacks around the world, they are classified as “induced accidents” and occur mostly during “hand-feeding”. A fatal case occurred during a “rodeo” on a well-known Bahamian site. Studies have shown that sharks may be more aggressive on regular feeding sites. In French Polynesia, about 20 bites occurred during feeding sessions. A dramatic series of attacks in the Red Sea led to the banning of shark feeding. Sharks are wild animals, and diving with them carries a certain risk. This risk is variable depending on the species, almost zero for diving with small coastal and reef sharks, it can be non-negligible for diving with large offshore sharks. In all cases, operators have set up strict protocols to minimize this risk. Divers should be informed of this potential risk, as the diver’s psychological preparation is a guarantee of his safety. If low-risk diving with a large number of shark species is feasible, dives with large pelagic sharks should be reserved for skilled and experienced divers.
While issues of disadvantage are still debated, the benefits of ecotourism are undeniable. Financial income for local populations is sustainable because the “resource” is conserved! These activities generate jobs, and in some cases, it is possible to reconvert a declining or even moribund (e.g. fishing) activity into a profitable activity. They also make it possible to change mentalities, by demystifying the bad image of sharks. Thus, raising awareness among operators and participants in the conservation of sharks contributes to the protection of certain species and marine areas. Finally, the operators of these activities readily participate in the collection of data (through their daily observations and their empirical knowledge) to scientific programs aimed at better understanding the behaviour of sharks.
Even if the “bio” diver tries to blend in the environment to minimize its impact, it is never nil! His only presence in an environment that is not his could disturb it! Experience shows that this impact is minimal when the diver adopts behaviour that respects the environment and its inhabitants. Codes of conduct are taught in the majority of diving clubs, and many divers and clubs have already adopted the International Charter of Responsible Diver promoted by the association Longitude 181 Nature.