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January 2004 Vol. 19, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Shark Feeding Stops: $25 Million Suit for Lost Leg

from the January, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

UNEXSO, the venerable dive operator on Grand Bahama Island, has stopped its regularly scheduled shark feeding dives. The reason, Kara Kirk of UNEXSO's reservations department told Undercurrent, is lack of interest. She said, "We will offer it if we have a large group that pre-books it."

An industry insider told Undercurrent, however, that "the closing of shark feeding around Lucaya (including UNEXSO and Neal Watson's Xanadu dive operation) is a result of the backlash following the attack on a Wall Street banker while snorkeling off the beach at Freeport's Our Lucaya resort during August 2001. Once Johnny Cochran got hold of the case, it was on NBC Dateline and the victim said -- to an international audience -- that if he had known they were feeding sharks right off the beach he would not have gone in the water. The Bahamas government has a half-billion dollar investment in that resort, and I suspect they laid down the (as yet unwritten) law to the shark feeders who were, after all, American-owned and -run businesses."

In November, Krishna Thompson, who lost part of his left leg in the attack, sued Our Lucaya for $25 million, arguing that the hotel should have warned guests about the shark feeding nearby. According to Thompson's lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court, the resort's beach is dangerously close to "Shark Junction," where tourists pay to watch frenzied sharks feed. "The hotel knew that there were shark-feeding tours taking place nearby. There were no warnings about the sharks ..." Thompson's lawyer, Derek Sells, told a federal court in October. Thompson rejected a $200,000 settlement offer, according to the New York Daily News.

The resort's lawyers are pressing to transfer the lawsuit from Brooklyn to the Bahamas, where payouts for pain and suffering are as rare as shark attacks. Resort lawyer Frank Raia has said the shark feeding tours are more than a mile from the beach and are run by Bahamian companies with no ties to Our Lucaya. "Sounds like those parties are potential [defendants] in this case," Raia said during an October hearing. "That's another reason why this case needs to be in the Bahamas."

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