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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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April 2014    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 40, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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To Sharks, Divers Plus Lionfish Equals Food

from the April, 2014 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We warned in last month's issue about how sharks and eels are now going after divers culling lionfish, and here's further evidence.

Jason Dimitri is a former North Carolina police officer who had only been diving for five months when he saw his first shark during a Grand Cayman dive trip on March 13. He and his buddy were at a site near Breakers, culling lionfish at 70 feet. They had seen a reef shark earlier, but continued to cull for 30 minutes when the shark suddenly appeared and bumped Dimitri, who was wearing a GoPro camera and carrying a container filled with lionfish.

Dimitri filmed three minutes of the shark repeatedly circling and bumping him, which he responded to by smacking it on the nose with his fins and spear. "I was just trying to defend myself," he told the Caymanian Compass. "I tried to stay calm and make sure I didn't bolt to the surface." Only when he dropped the lionfish container did the shark swim away.

Dimitri's run-in may have been the result of previous divers feeding sharks from spears, thus teaching them to associate lionfish cullers with food. That type of encounter is becoming more common, so Cayman officials are advising divers to stop culling and end their dives if they see sharks.

Steve Broadbent of Ocean Frontiers on the East End saw Dimitri's video and told the Caymanian Compass that the shark was behaving normally, acting "competitively" toward the diver and interested only in the lionfish as food. "As soon as the shark had deduced that the food was no longer present at the diver, she returned to the bottom and remained there." Besides aborting a dive, divers should use clear containment devices and drop their catch immediately if a shark or eel shows interest, said Broadbent. "The diver held on to his catch for an excessive length of time and led the shark to the surface."

The upside for Dimitri: After he posted his "Shark Attack" video on YouTube ( ), it has received nearly a million views and media attention worldwide, and a Saudi prince even invited him to come shark diving in Dubai.

He says he regrets labeling the video "shark attack" and did not blame the shark. "I wish I had called it 'shark interaction,' but I can't change that now, unfortunately. I wouldn't want people to go out and try to harm sharks because of this." Dimitri says any YouTube ad revenue he gets will go to shark research and conservation efforts.

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