30 March 2005

Shark experts set to sue over dramatic shark encounter claims

South African shark experts are considering legal action against foreign media over "sensational" coverage of an attack by a Great White during a shark-diving excursion.

Marietta Hopley, Chair of the Great White Shark Protection Foundation and Co-Owner of White Shark Ecoventures, voiced her annoyance today at the sensational and extensive media coverage of the cage diving ?incident? as reported by British tourist Mark Currie.

Over the weekend Mr Currie spoke at length to the World?s media, providing dramatic details, and some footage, of his version of an event that occurred on a White Shark Ecoventures boat in December 2004. A video of the incident was screened on British and American TV.

According to reports, Currie narrowly escaped death after the shark suddenly attacked the cage.

Hopley said the video footage showed the bait, thrown for the shark, floating past the cage.

"According to guidelines we have to follow, we are not allowed to feed the sharks.

"The bait is immediately pulled back into the boat if a shark goes for it.

'These are all lies'
"In this instance, the shark bit one of the rails. It happened twice more and when he realised it was not food he swam away."

Hopley said reports that someone on the boat had scared off a shark with a steel pole were incorrect.

"These are all lies. We are considering legal action against the media that first spread the stories."

She said this is not the first time something like this had happened during an excursion.

"One mustn't lose track of the fact that shark diving is an adrenalin sport.

This incident was simply a common action-packed day on such an excursion. We put the safety of clients and sharks high on our priorities list."

Incensed by the coverage, Ms Hopley has collected sworn affidavits from the Skipper, Dive Master and other passengers who were on the vessel with Mr Currie, and intends to take legal action against Mr Currie, suing for damages.

The Shark Trust has expressed dismay that the recent coverage and images have fed public misunderstanding of sharks and compounded the popular-culture image of them as being solely aggressive, violent creatures.

Richard Peirce, Chairman of the Shark Trust said, ?This event and its repercussions are most unfortunate. Such an unfounded negative projection of sharks undermines the excellent work undertaken within the conservation community. An opportunity to witness a White Shark in the wild is a great privilege and it is a pity that the experience was a negative one for Mr Currie.?


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