Dramatic Instagram photo of great white shark stirs debate

A New Jersey schoolteacher's dramatic photo of a great white shark lunging for fish bait is making waves on social media. -- PHOTO: AMANDA BREWER/INSTAGRAM
A New Jersey schoolteacher's dramatic photo of a great white shark lunging for fish bait is making waves on social media. -- PHOTO: AMANDA BREWER/INSTAGRAM

A New Jersey schoolteacher's dramatic photo of a great white shark lunging for fish bait is making waves on social media.

The image has also triggered a debate over the use of bait to lure sharks close to shark diving cages so that tourists can see them up close.

The photo was made by 26-year-old Amanda Brewer. The amateur diver and photographer spent the month of August cage diving in South Africa, reported National Geographic News. She was serving as an intern with the eco-tourism company White Shark Africa when she took the photo of the female white shark off Seal Island in Mossel Bay, South Africa.

"I wasn't afraid at all," Ms Brewer was quoted as saying.

 

Loading

I throw back everyday - today, my favorite #gopro shot from South Africa.

View on Instagram

"Once you see them up close, you gain an enormous respect for them. They're beautiful, powerful, and intelligent, and it erases all the fear."

"I'd been waiting for this kind of experience my whole life," Ms Brewer told LightBox, a blog created and curated by TIME’s photo department.

Ms Brewer said she made the image with a GoPro camera she had purchased just before her trip. The camera's fish-eye lens made the shark seem closer and more menacing than it was in real life, she said.

After she posted it online to Instagram and Your Shot, people started sharing it heavily, perhaps because of the photo's intense sense of action. On Facebook, the image has been making the rounds on pages devoted to sharks and, especially, white sharks -- an endangered species.

There it has drawn both praise and criticism. Some people commented that the use of bait so close to a metal cage is dangerous for the feared predators, reported GrindTV.

Speaking to GrindTV, the art teacher explained that the fish heads used to lure the shark were pulled around and out of the way of the cage to make sure the sea creature didn't lunge and the steel bars.

Responding to the criticism, Ms Brewer told Grind TV that White Shark Africa never pulls bait into or even directly toward cages.

"The person was pulling the bait around and out of the way of the cage so that shark wouldn't go near the cage at all," she said.

Upon her return home, Ms Brewer hung her now-famous picture of the shark with its mouth agape in her classroom at Whitman Elementary School in Washington Township to inspire her young students, reported the Daily Mail.

Mr Gregory Skomal, a senior fisheries biologist who studies sharks for the state of Massachusetts, told National Geographic that fears about this shark hitting the cage are probably overblown. "In my opinion, it's not likely the shark would be injured by the cage," he says.

"These are remarkably tough animals," he adds. "I have seen them heavily scarred up by each other, with parts having been bitten off, and they have an amazing capacity to heal."

South Africa requires cage divers to obtain permits and follow strict safety guidelines, Mr Skomal notes. In a few cases, smaller sharks have gotten stuck trying to swim inside cages, "but that's extremely rare."