There's an old French saying “Noblesse Oblige".
It roughly translates in to Noble Obligation.Those who are on the front lines of an issue and who can effect change have a noble obligation to do so.
Which brings us to the state of commercial shark diving worldwide. The industry is valued at $300-400 million dollars and for the most part, operators are content to show divers sharks, make money and repeat. Without a doubt the current state of “Noblesse Oblige" in our industry is at an all time low.
Let me qualify this statement before the angry emails start. In our world effecting change with sharks goes beyond just interacting with these animals on a commercial level or aligning ourselves with non profits who are doing all the heavy lifting. You have to be engaged, you have to create directional focus and motivate people who might not consider it, to be active in the shark community. Let's face it with 80 million sharks being killed each and every year there's little room anymore for fence sitters who are content to just make money diving with sharks.
Operators should be bound by “Noblesse Oblige" to create conservation efforts outside their operations. Real and lasting projects that further the protection of sharks, shark science, and conservation.
Having said this there are some simply stunning projects out there that are fully supported by many forward thinking commercial shark diving operations. They are, unfortunately, the minority of the industry and we can do much better beyond a few online petitions, some POS material on a vessel, and an eco chat with our guests.
As front line sentinels, operators from California to South Africa are often the first to report trouble, and have a key insight into the health and direction of local shark populations. One of the misnomers is that real and effective shark conservation costs a lot of money, it does not.
It does take time and effort beyond operations.
There are many within the shark community who are trying to make 2009 The Year of the Sharks. To that may we add “Tiburon Noblesse Oblige." The hope that operations worldwide look to where they can become involved, create local efforts, websites, focus and direction.
We cannot allow shark NGO's to shoulder the shark conservation burden alone. Noblesse Oblige can and will effect lasting change for shark conservation.
Time is a luxury that sharks, unfortunately, do not have.