A Floridian diver has befriended an “affectionate” 15-foot tiger shark in an effort to show the world — in light of a hellish summer of coastal attacks — that they’re not so bad after all.
Actually, he says some are like dogs of the sea.
Jim Abernethy, an underwater photographer and scuba tour operator based in Grand Bahama, first drummed up his relationship with the aquatic predator — whom he calls Emma — after yanking four hooks from her jaw over the course of 20 years, the Mirror reported.
They’ve even bonded to the point where the pair now communicates through hand signals and close encounters, he said.
“The affection is hands-on, rubbing her head, and I usually use a hand signal which is rubbing my thumb to my fingertips and the shark swims directly towards me,” Abernethy said, mentioning that Emma has been in 14 documentaries and is “world famous.”
“She’s underneath my boat 10 months of the year, never leaves. She would only come in really close when I was there.”
Around the waters, other sharks are aware that Abernethy has become best fins forever with Emma. They recognize him even after he changes scuba gear, according to the Mirror.
“The tiger shark is really playful and they’re also very curious, kind of like our dogs,” he said. “Whatever I have in my hand they think it’s their new toy. Although it’s funny, it’s not funny if it’s your camera.”
Now Abernethy is passing along his knowledge of making sharks tranquil, teaching others “how to make friends with a shark without feeding them.”
“If a wild shark spends a lot of time around us, at some point, that shark will realize that it is not being abused and is going to become more complacent,” he said. “It’s going to swim around us with very very little concern.”
Abernethy has become so crafty and relaxed while swimming in the tropical, shark-infested waters that he calls the surrounding maritime wildlife his friends.
“You would think that somebody like me doing shark dives, probably more than anyone on the planet, would probably not have any arms or legs and you can see I’m perfectly fine,” Abernethy said.
“Sharks, when they hear our boat, will actually chase the boat to the mooring or wherever we’re gonna go, long before we put bait in the water, which is great if you love sharks — which I do.”