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Famed 'Cowboy' Shark Dive Operator Jim Abernethy Bitten By Shark In The Bahamas
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MIAMI, Florida -- The U.S. Coast Guard has evacuated the controversial shark dive operator Jim Abernethy after he was bitten by a shark in the Bahamas. Abernethy, 55, was on a diving excursion with the commercial diving vessel Shear Water about 18 miles north of West End, The Bahamas, when the incident occurred.

The Coast Guard confirmed the 55-year-old victim was flown to St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Abernethy was reportedly responsive and awake during the rescue.

Abernethy, a well-known dive operator and shark enthusiast, is no stranger to controversy. Back in 2008, Markus Groh, a lawyer and avid diver from Austria, died from a shark bite while on a trip led by Abernethy.

Before the Groh incident, Abernethy had been warned in a letter which went to all dive companies operating in the Bahamas, to cease and desist "conducting open-water non-cage shark diving experiences with known species of potentially dangerous sharks, such as tiger sharks, bull sharks, hammerhead sharks, lemon sharks & mako sharks."

The letter, written by Neal Watson, president of the Bahamas Dive Association, went on to say "some dive operators have chosen to disregard standard safe-diving practices as it relates to interactions with tiger sharks and other potentially dangerous species of sharks, in various locations within the waters of The Islands of The Bahamas."

In an interview, Watson said "there's not a shark expert in the world that would put divers in the water, with chum, specifically to attract bull, tiger and hammerhead sharks, without a cage. That's putting people's lives at risk"

Watson said Abernethy's "cowboy" operation "refused to comply" with his cease and desist recommendation.

Update

Through a friend, Jim Abernethy has issued a statement:

Thank you for your concerns and well-wishes tonight; Iím going to be fine and so is the shark.

My concern is for the future of sharks. Each day more than 200,000 are killed - mostly for shark fin soup.

Since the 1970s, sharks populations have plummeted by as much as 80 percent, with some species reduced by a staggering 97 percent.

Iíve spent the last two decades of my life in the Bahamas with the sharks that I love.

Todayís minor incident will not deter me. I will continue my mission to help protect these beautiful animals and share their grace and wonder with others.

I am dedicated to promotion and establishment of marine preserves for these creatures and all marine life.

This is the only way to help protect the future of our oceans Ė and the life, resources, and joy it brings to all of us.

Thank you again for your concerns and well wishes.

I plan to be back out to sea in a few days.

Reader Comments

30 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Best wishes to Jim and we wish him a speedy recovery. We also love diving with Tiger and other sharks here in South Africa and believe that Jim, through his operations, is spreading the word regarding shark conservation. We have to give sharks a fighting chance and give divers the opportunity to dive with these apex predators while still possible.
   comment# 1   - Paul Landman · Durban, South Africa · Jan 27, 2011 @ 3:56am

These tree huggers are delusional to the point of taking the safety of other people's lives for granted.
   comment# 2   - Alentino · Malaysia · Jan 27, 2011 @ 5:02am

It is ironic that one man and one man only has done more harm to the perception of sharks in Fl and the Bahamas and that's Jimmy Abernathy. The irony is he claims to be a shark conservationist. Two years ago a diver died on one of his trips because of poor baiting. Now Jimmy himself is bitten. When does this end? Once might be an accident, twice is a track record. Shame.
   comment# 3   - Jimmy Abernathy Bahamas Shark Attack? · Miami, Fl · Jan 27, 2011 @ 9:25am

You can still support conservation while acknowledging that some species of shark are dangerous to humans. Why can some people not grasp this simple concept? At least two people have already been attacked by the sharks on this man's tours, by the sharks that he says don't attack people. One of the people were killed. There is bias and stupidity, and then there is an entirely new level, which is this. God gave us all brains. What do you say we use them?
   comment# 4   - Kevin · Thousand Oaks, CA, USA · Jan 27, 2011 @ 9:38am

people that go on trips such as what JASA run know exactly what they are going to be doing. Thats why they go. I would hazard a guess and say that 999 out of 1000 guests that go are very experienced divers and divers that have dived with sharks many times before going on a JASA trip. We know what we are doing. Bee keepers get stung, rodeo cowboys get thrown, bull fighters get horns in all parts of their bodies. It does not make any of it right, but it is life and if people choose to do these things then they should be allowed to them.
   comment# 5   - stew smith · uk · Jan 27, 2011 @ 12:52pm

Stew you are missing the point. Sharks are under threat worldwide and the perception of sharks is at an all time low. Every time Jimmy has a diver who dies from a shark bite or is bitten himself sharks suffer. This is number two for the famous shark man. Will there be number three?
   comment# 6   - Robin · Denver · Jan 27, 2011 @ 1:53pm

Before everyone is quick to condem Jim for his shark experience tours let's not forget the captive industry ie: a Tiger in Las Vegas and Killer Whale in Orlando. Both claim conservation and awareness yet accidents happened to them as well. True no one in the audience was injured but the result is the same, a negative impression. Everyone needs to realize not one of JASA customers goes on this excursion thinking they are perfectly safe, that is part of the attraction. At least these animals are free!
   comment# 7   - Correction Abernathy's Shark Accidentt · Pompano Beach, USA · Jan 27, 2011 @ 5:19pm

"These tree huggers are delusional to the point of taking the safety of other people's lives for granted. comment# 2 - Alentino ∑ Malaysia ∑ Jan 27, 2011 @ 5:02am " Bingo............
   comment# 8   - Brent · Palm Beach, Florida · Jan 27, 2011 @ 5:41pm

OK, I've said it before and I'll say it again "What part about "DON'T FEED THE BEARS" don't you get? It's not about conservation - it's about money. I don't doubt that Jim loves the sharks; so do I, but just leave them alone. If you establish a feeding site, you establish a place where they can be leagally harvested. Oh yeah, they aren't afraid of humans there as well. I hope you have a speedy recovery Jim. I wished that upon Eric Ritter as well. The list goes on and on. Why do you guys keep doing it? It's like watching pretty young girls date guys of bad character. Godspeed on your recovery, Bruce
   comment# 9   - Bruce · Pompano Beach, USA · Jan 27, 2011 @ 9:36pm

"Bee keepers get stung, rodeo cowboys get thrown, bull fighters get horns in all parts of their bodies." Point taken but you missed the point. All of these activities you outlined are solo activities. They are not guided buy a tour operator, and when a bull gores a rodeo clown, bulls worldwide are not slaughtered. You don't go to the beach in fear of bees and bulls, shark nets that kill millions of sharks are not put up for bees. Jimmy has set back the perceptions of sharks again, as only Jimmy can. He is the Eric Ritter of his day and for Markus Groh the Timothy Treadwell of 2008. I hope he gets better, but I also hope he learns something from this. For the sharks!
   comment# 10   - Mark · Palm Beach · Jan 28, 2011 @ 7:57am

What Jim does is something that assumes a certian amount of risk. We all agree on that. But if you look at the fact that in 35 years he has had only one other incident you are all comparing this to, I think it says something about the safety of his trips. Keep in mind that he is now out of the hospital and hopeing to attend the next trip. This was a minor incident that is made into a major story because everyone wants to sensationalize it. I was bit by a dog a few years back and suffered much worse injuries than Jim, but it never made the news. I agree that this is a step back for the sharks, but if you follow what Jim does for shark conservation you would know that he is still way ahead. Please don't compare a minor injury to a death that happened years ago, all you are doing is reminding the people who want to use this as ammunition. Keep in mind that all over the world wild animals interract with humans; and most of these animals cause far more harm than sharks do. Jim does nothing wrong with the operation he runs, if you don't want to assume the risks you don't have to go.
   comment# 11   - Matt · Denver · Jan 28, 2011 @ 3:54pm

Get your facts correct! Moron
   comment# 12   - Ed · everywhere · Jan 30, 2011 @ 1:19pm

At what point did the dive industry assume that you might be badly bitten or even killed on a shark dive? Oh, when Jim Abernathy opened his doors, that's when the few misguided Jim fans who are pushing this myth started it. Assumed risk? Markus Groh was not warned that the bait crate hovered above his legs would cause a bull shark to rip into them, but it happened. It was no accident and this latest bad shark bite (by the way Jim what was the shark, a Lemon or a Reef, cause you're changing stories again) is making the whole dive would look bad, again. Let's call a spade a spade, you cannot tell people sharks are safe and have the kind of yellow water poor track record Jim has. And for god sake let's drop this stupid assumed risk garbage. You want to help sharks Jim, stop getting people mauled by them, simple right?
   comment# 13   - Matt Outta his Mind? · Corckran, Oh · Jan 30, 2011 @ 1:43pm

Jim hope you make a quick recovery.
   comment# 14   - doug · indiana · Feb 7, 2011 @ 8:37pm

Jim I hope you learned a lesson that your shark adventures have consequences. Never forget Markus Groh or his family, you have a life to account for.
   comment# 15   - Martin · San Diego · Feb 9, 2011 @ 9:19am

Jim. You are my friend and my hero. Known you for many years. Dove with you way back then. You are doing and proving things that you want to and believe in. This wasn't Emma. Dont forsake yourself or your purpose for carelessness. Dive with you anytime, anywhere.
   comment# 16   - RANGERON · NJ, USA · Feb 19, 2011 @ 12:45am

I know Jim and have dove with him on a couple of occassions. He's a great guy, loves the environment, and hates shark finning. when you're around sharks as much as Jim there is always a chance of an incident, though the shear number of times he's been i nthe water with sharks vs the number of incidents should speak volumes. Get well, Jim, and continue your fight to save those endangered creatures.
   comment# 17   - Bill Powers · San Diego, Ca · Mar 1, 2011 @ 9:10am

Jim you need to stop this madness for the sake of the sharks. While the rest of the world is trying to save sharks you have made one mistake after another after another. Your track record is 4 shark bites and one actual death. A DEATH! Sharks need you as a friend like children in Africa need dirty water. Stop the madness now before you make another mistake with a shark Jim, please?
   comment# 18   - Tim Reid · Palm Beach · Mar 7, 2011 @ 1:24pm

Jim, You are an inspiration to lots of people. Dont let the opinions of these other narrow minded people phase you. I too share a love for sharks and strongly support Jim and what he is doing to make a difference. I have dove with Jim before and would do so again in a hearbeat.
   comment# 19   - Dillon Mathewson · Charlotte, NC · Mar 9, 2011 @ 7:25am

Inspiration? Hardly, Jim is a well known self promoter and not much else. My brother bumped into Jim last week and he asked about Jim's arm. Jim told him "it was really bad and told the media it was a minor bite to get them off his back." Mark my words well this will not be the last shark bite or death that Jim will be directly responsible for, oh and Jim, stop chumming on Sugar Wreck, when you leave there everyone else who uses that site has to contend with the sharks you're training to hand feed.
   comment# 20   - Don · Miami, Fl · Apr 18, 2011 @ 6:47am

Don, your comments are right on. I have been diving these same waters since the mid eighties and the number of shark sightings has increased significantly since JA started this ridiculous practice. My buddy and I have literally been chased out of the water by reefs, bulls and other species. These Sharks see us and associate us with food thanks to JA. Guess what happens when you are surrounded by 6-8 sharks circling and you have no food for them. I can tell you firsthand that these sharks are highly instinctive creatures and by their very nature know how to contain a food supply in the water. They basically push you off the reef and into deeper water and their numbers steadily increase during the process. We have all but abandoned the areas north of Memory Rock.
   comment# 21   - wrose · palm beach · May 14, 2011 @ 12:37pm

Shark feeding while diving is Bad for diving & the sharks.My dive buddy was bitten by a reef shark off Bimini in 2010.We had to evacuate him to MIA after he almost bled to death.He did not lose his leg but is crippled for life.This reef shark swam up to us with no fear of humans.We have both been diving for over 40 years.Bear feeding & shark feeding has been banned in the US for a reason.Now,this shark feeding for $$ needs to stop in the Bahamas.The only reason this has continued so long is for the almighty dollar. Also,Do not count on the Coast Guard to come get a injured diver.We waited over 2 hours after they had promised to send a chopper to evacuate him.We had to hire a private Life Flight to get him to Miami hospital.
   comment# 22   - Chuck C · Miami,Fl USA · Jul 26, 2012 @ 11:22am

I've been diving for a week on Shear water with Jim and his crew and i've seen how madly in love with shark he is. In my opinion, Jim's way shark diving is completely safe, but you must strictly follow the rules and respect shark...the way Jim do and teach.Giovanni R.F. Italia
   comment# 23   - Giovanni Rossi Filangieri · NAPOLI, ITALIA · Nov 18, 2012 @ 12:20pm

I've done the tiger shark trip twice with The Shearwater. Jim and crew were great, one of the safest operation out there. They do amazing conservation work.
   comment# 24   - Karin Leonard · Florida, USA · Apr 29, 2014 @ 5:49pm

The sharks had become so aggressive she had to get out of the water.... The Florida Dive boat operators were trying to skirt the regulations. Read about the investigation that led to their arrests. Protect and save sharks and divers. http://chn.ge/1qjxitC
   comment# 25   - John Russell · Orlando, Fla USA · May 13, 2014 @ 12:39pm

The sharks have claimed another victim. John Petty's disappearance during a night dive in one of Abernethy's expeditions was said to have been caused by a shark attack. I wonder how many more before enough is enough...
   comment# 26   - E Torre · Miami, USA · Jul 17, 2014 @ 12:18am

and again... http://www.kltv.com/story/26022208/friends-of-missing-east-texas-doctor-are-heartbroken-but-not-giving-up?autostart=true
   comment# 27   - Juan Pablo · Longview, Texas · Jul 17, 2014 @ 10:32am

It is so sad to learn of the loss of a diver, Dr. John Petty. My condolences to his family and friends. According to the news report, Captain Jim Abernethy made the call to the US Coast Guard at 8 p.m. AFTER the dive when Dr. Petty failed to surface. It is not dark at 8 p.m. (Eastern). The sun sets at just after 8 p.m. This was not a night dive. Also according to the news report, some dive equipment was recovered. It is unknown the exact cause of death at this point. Missing are many details about the dive, so it is presumptuous to state the cause as a shark attack. I've dived with Jim on many occasions over the years and know him to be an extremely experienced diver and boat captain. He promotes safety on all of his dive charters. He is a conservationist who promotes an understanding of the shark's role in the ecosystem, and their protection from fishing and "finning". Thousands of uneventful dives have been made with sharks over the years.
   comment# 28   - Cindy · Florida, USA · Jul 17, 2014 @ 10:33pm

Myself and our dive group went on the Abernathy's shark exhibition in Nov, and we found it the most safe, elaborate safety precautions in any diving I've done in 40 years. Abernathy was leading the dives, and we as a group were not following the rules precisely, and we all got a good "rear orifice chewing" about following the rules of shark diving. No one got hurt, and we saw they most spectacular diving in my 40 year.
   comment# 29   - Jerry · Philippines · Jul 18, 2014 @ 10:04am

I was also attacked by a shark while diving on the shear water in the Bahamas. The staff was great. They did nothing wrong. That is the nature of life. Grow up people. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the ocean. Sharks bite sometimes. Everyone knows that. I support the staff of the Shear water.
   comment# 30   - Mark Younger · Woodstock, Ga · Jul 20, 2014 @ 8:50am
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