Posted by - on November 10, 2004 at 15:53:54:
The incident allegedly happened while 52-year-old Hartman was throwing chum into the water while trailing his foot in the sea. The shark dive operator had a boat full of Eastern European tourists who were preparing to dive in a cage with the sharks off Gansbaai, near Cape Town.
Hartman's shark-diving colleague, JP Botha, was quick explain to reporters that the incident was 'a freak accident' and that there was no logical connection between chumming and the attack. Many South African surfers and beach-users have campaigned against chumming, arguing that bringing sharks close to shore - and associating the presence of humans with food - increases the risk of shark attacks.
The Marine and Coastal Management authorities have launched an investigation into the shark diving operation after allegations from passengers that Hartman was freediving from the boat while bait was being thrown, and that this was when he was bitten. Officials told local journalists that it is against the law for operators to dive outside a cage when bait is being used, and that they would take action if the safety of tourists or the reputation of the shark cage diving industry were threatened.
Hartman's website states
"This man has no problem with free diving with the great white shark. Yes, you read correctly. Free diving with the great white shark!"
Hartman denies that he was freediving when bitten.
South African shark dive operators are expected to follow a code of conduct, and permits are being introduced in 2005 to further regulate their activities. Shark diving activities provide a significant income for the South African tourist industry. Many environmentalists support the shark dive operators, despite the artificial interference in shark feeding patterns, as it helps create an economic incentive to keep sharks alive.
Craig Ferreira of the White Shark Research Institute is working to develop a new protocol and code of conduct for shark dive operators. He highlighted some of the safety issues for tourist divers.
"Without reference to anyone in particular, some of the white shark operators in South Africa have become complacent and reckless with the sharks and I am quite surprised a serious accident has not occurred.
"Some operators are allowing people to sit on top of cages in bumpy seas with sharks around. These clients have double the weight normally used for diving and no fins, so one slip off the cage and they are gone.
"This is not to say that the operators are unprofessional, however, they become complacent and accidents occur in the blink of an eye.
"My advice to a potential white shark diver is not to sit on top of any cage and insist on assistance both into and out of the cage" he told Divernet.
More links of interest
Shark dive operators accused after attack on surfer
Shark dive operator suffers arson attack
Shark dive operator banned
Divers at risk over 'shark teasing'
Florida police intervene over shark feeding
Florida shark dive operators banned from feeding sharks
White Shark Research Institute
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