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February 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 26, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Jim Abernethy Catches a Few Teeth

from the February, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Since feeding sharks is illegal in South Florida waters, Jim Abernethy runs shark tours from Palm Beach to the Grand Bahamas. Plenty of top drawer photographers wanting shots of hammerheads and tiger sharks are his loyal customers. They all say Abernethy knows his sharks.

But on Jan 25, Abernethy was attacked by a reef shark in one of those busy shark moments, leading to a ride on Coast Guard helicopter to St. Mary's Medical Center with a healthy bite to his arm. The attack happened about 18 miles north of West End where Abernethy was leading a week-long shark excursion. According to witnesses, when Abernethy got back on the boat, he was bleeding profusely. He needed stitches, but is expected to recover.

Abernethy, himself, is not his first victim. In 2008, an Austrian tourist died when he was mauled by a shark during an excursion sponsored by Abernethy's company.

Abernethy's trips are controversial. Many in South Florida say he should not be feeding sharks, as they have become much more dangerous due to humans feeding them. "They're not highly intelligent animals to begin with," Jason Doty told TV station WSVN, "so you're down there diving, and if you're feeding them, they think divers are food. When we're out spearfishing they're super aggressive with us, but they used to not be."

Abernethy released a statement saying: "Thank you for your concerns and well-wishes, I'm going to be fine. I've spent the last two decades of my life in the Bahamas with the sharks that I love. Today's minor incident will not deter me. I plan to be back out to sea in a few days."

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