On being asked about the dangers of his deep sea adventures, Michael Mueller, the famous shark photographer from Los Angeles, also fondly known as ‘shark paparazzo’ in journalistic circles, said “People don’t need to be scared. I tickle sharks, I do, when they swim by.”
Mueller’s words may have said these words in good humour, but a recent incident makes us question the general sense of ferocity and fear associated with a shark.
A team of scuba divers from the Aloha Scuba Diving Company, struck a friendly chord with the majestic 20 ft long great white shark named Deep Blue (last spotted 3 years ago), while on a diving retreat in Hawaiian waters.
One of the divers, Ocean Ramsey said that the divers were on a mission to film tiger sharks feed off the carcass of a sperm whale in the warm waters off Oahu’s south shore.
They happened to notice the 50-year-old, 2.5 tonnes, possibly pregnant white shark approach the boat and brush against it, with no signs of aggression or agitation. Ramsey described the situation as surreal and ‘so safe, that all divers immediately jumped off the boat to swim with the shark.’
Ramsey’s Instagram page has footage of her moving alongside the shark, and pictures of her touching it, as other scuba divers swim by.
Shark experts, however, were of the opinion that the divers had a responsibility towards marine life and accused Ramsey’s gestures to be an act of wildlife harassment.
Critics took to social media to condemn her actions and said that absolutely no shark diving operators should be allowed to touch sharks.
Many conservationists were of the opinion that touching the possibly pregnant shark could have damaging effects on it, as well as cause impressionable minds to take a wrong message from the incident.
The Aloha Scuba Diving Company defended Ms Ramsey by calling her a ‘highly qualified shark advocate’ who wouldn’t engage in any activity that would harm the animal in any manner.
Ms Ramsey further argued that people fail to understand an animal’s need for touch and empathy, or the importance of humans maintaining a bond with the natural world. She challenged critics to reflect deeply on what actually hurts sharks.
This post was written by Shruti Sundaresan (She/her) and edited by Karolina Zięba (She/her).