I’m a little torn on this one.

Just recently, Hawaii shark activist Ocean Ramsey went shark diving off the coast of Mexico. Judging from the clarity of water, and the presence of a cage diving operation, as an educated guess I think this is Guadalupe, which is where I went white shark diving back in 2007.

An awesome thing to do. Life changing, for sure. But the thing is, she left the cage and filmed herself hitching a ride on the dorsal of a great white. And she ‘pet’ the shark.

Is This Too Far?

The video, which I’ll post here, has drawn lots of attention. Some say it’s nothing short of amazing. It’s beautiful, life-affirming, and shows that great whites aren’t JAWS. The other side – the critics, including organizations like Fin-Free and some diving operations, say she went too far in making this film. Great whites are misunderstood, but they’re still apex predators. They’re magnificent animals and should be respected as such.

Petting a great white shark does not constitute ‘respect’.

There was a big commotion in 2010 when a newcomer to the shark diving scene at Guadalupe started his own charter business. For about $2000 more than the other, long-established guys at Guadalupe, this operator would go beyond the confines of cage diving and let you swim – supervised – freely with the great whites of the area. This really ticked off the other operators at Guadalupe, who established the shark diving scene there over ten years, and who knew the great whites intimately, and called the practice irresponsible.

I won’t go any further into this other than to say that I do not advocate free diving with great whites at Guadalupe, nor do I recommend the operator who offers this. Go with Shark Diver, or alternatively, M/V Islander is very good too.

Ocean Ramsey: Shark Warrior

Ocean Ramsey is an experienced free diver. She clearly knows sharks. And I think her heart is in the right place. If her intention is to demonstrate that great whites aren’t ruthless man-eaters, she succeeded. It’s an amazing video, I agree, and I think she really did connect with this beautiful creature.

But there’s a fine line between beauty and tragedy. What if something happened here, and things got ugly? The video would make headlines for years and sharks would once again be demonized. We don’t need an express ticket back to JAWs circa 1975. What we need is clarity. We need to help sharks cultivate their essential role in our oceans.

This video does portray sharks in a majestic light, but I feel that it’s setting a dangerous precedent.

So to summarize, it’s a beautiful video. Watch and savour each moment. Just remember this mantra, courtesy of Support Our Sharks: “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Bubbles”. And when diving with great whites, bring as much respect as you do courage.