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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Last Updated on March 30, 2019

Shark-cage dive off Oahu
Off the coast of Oahu, a shark goes for bait while I watch from the cage.

Just yesterday I was explaining to my technically challenged mother the importance of Googling your name every few weeks. In the past, I’ve discovered there’s a runaway and a porn star (possibly the same person) who share my first and last name, which is one reason I’d decided to add my middle name to my byline, for the sake of clarification.

So I was shocked when, Googling my full byline name just a few minutes ago, I came across a listing entitled:

Stories Tagged ‘illegal’ » Netscape.com

…which goes on to detail how my recent article in the Seattle P-I inadvertently exposed Jimmy Hall and his Hawaii Shark Encounters outfit for illegally feeding sharks. When I wrote the article a little over a month ago about the trip I took in January 2006, I had no clue that this was an illegal activity, especially since Jimmy had mentioned how several of his competitors do it as well.

Follow-ups to the story counter the allegations, stating that since Jimmy was more than three miles offshore (as I can attest to), he was no longer in Hawaiian waters and therefore was not committing illegal activity. But as one commenter notes, this is also up for debate, as Hawaii claims jurisdiction to the channels between islands, even though the state has never defended this position in federal court.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say if Jimmy is guilty. I will say that he showed a great deal of respect for the sharks and that I found no fault with his operation. I felt perfectly safe the entire time and admired Jimmy’s obvious love of the sea and its inhabitants. And after seeing the video of him outside of the cage with an 18-foot great white, I can say he truly love these creatures, even if he’s a bit of a daredevil. Jimmy told me that one of the reasons he took such a risk was because he wanted people to see that white sharks are not the vicious feeding machines Hollywood has made them out to be. On his webpage [Note: As of 2019, this page has been removed], he further describes why he swam unprotected with a great white.

About halfway into my trip, Jimmy learned that I was a writer. At that point, had he wanted to hide any illegal actions, he certainly could have, or at least downplayed them. But I don’t believe he felt what he was doing was illegal, or else he certainly would not have allowed me to take pictures of one of his crew tossing fish heads to the sharks just off the stern.

I had hoped my article would offset fears that many have about the ocean and its inhabitants, especially in the wake of Stever Irwin’s untimely death. I did not intend to “out” Jimmy. In fact, I had hoped my article would help his business, as well as awaken people to the beauty of the animals his expedition showcases.

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