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Are sharks friend or foe?

Jim Abernethy has a passion for trying to understand the shark and goes into their world to learn more about them.
Jim Abernethy has a passion for trying to understand the shark and goes into their world to learn more about them.
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In an ironic twist of fate, the ominous creature that has continued to invoke terror in swimmers and even some divers, has become an educational subject studied in great detail and respected for its contribution to the marine environment. For years now, the shark has been an underwater enemy claiming its territory in treacherous ways and hunting out its prey to fuel its hearty appetite. The curiosity of the shark and its interaction with humans has been ongoing over the eras. It is not uncommon to come upon a shark giving you a watchful yet hesitant gaze on any one dive. Nurse sharks are the most prevalent in the South Florida waters.

From the time that the move 'Jaws' made its debut in 1975, the shark has been portrayed as one of man's largest threats of the ocean world. With 470 different species of shark, it is safe to say that each has characteristics unique to its species.

Within the last few years, the shark attacks that we continue to read about, have been challenged by some eager to prove that sharks can be just as docile as they can be frightening.

ABC's Matt Gutman took to the ocean to learn why Captain Jim Abernethy is considered to be one of the world's foremost 'Shark Whisperers'. Jim runs a Florida-based commercial scuba-diving company. Diving is his passion turned career and sharks have intrigued him for some time now. He descends the depths to get ever so close to them and labels them as misunderstood creatures. He aims to prove that they are not all dangerous. He runs and not only is one of the top dive operators in Palm Beach County, but he also invites divers to join him at 'Tiger Beach', home to Tiger and Lemon sharks located in the Bahamas. He also offers Whale Shark Expeditions. Jim knows just how to handle the shark within its own habitat where it feels most comfortable. He continues to make progress each time he heads into their world.

A miraculous woman of the dive world and inductee into the Women Divers Hall of Fame is Christina Zenato. Come to be known as 'The Shark Whisperer', she has been known to hypnotize sharks in her presence as she performs tonic immobility. She has experience as a shark feeder trainer and even created a course for a shark-friendly experience. Christina has spread shark awareness through documentaries and videos featuring the great work that she does. She has a strong devotion to these misconceived creatures of the sea and can be seen at many dive shows around the nation. She will be a guest speaker at a dive show in North Miami in May of this year.

When you stop to think that the media are beginning to slowly accept and promote the thought processes of Jim and Christina and the media were the same ones that have instilled fear in half the world population, you begin to wonder, are sharks friends or foe? Will you take that plunge and find out?

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