WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Jim Abernethy has been diving with sharks for thirty years. During an encounter west of the Bahamas this week one bit him for the first time. But the only thing he was scared of was that people would misunderstand what happened.
During a news conference he tried to set the record straight. "The shark mistook me for a fish and made a shark mistake," Abernethy said.
He was ten feet down tending to bait in rough water. The choppy water stirs up the bait and can confuse sharks. He was in a cluster of about forty.
"Immediately I was thinking I don't know how bad it is. While I was still pulling off the wet suit, my crew had already wrapped up my arm and I didn't get to see the wound until much later that day at St. Mary's (Medical Center)," Abernethy said.
His surgeon, who sat next to him at a news conference Friday, says they've been able to avoid the biggest complication, which is infection. Even with three wounds on his right arm from the shark's teeth, he never lost sight of his mission in the hospital.
"Actually the only thing he was worried about was the press releasing bad information about sharks; truly, that's what he said in the trauma room," said trauma nurse Robin Davis.
Abernethy, who wore a shirt that read "Stop eating shark fin soup”, took the opportunity at the news conference to spread his message that sharks must be protected.
"Any diver anywhere on Florida, the Bahamas, or most of the world, realizes that our reefs are covered with algae. Scientists now believe that this algae is caused by the removal of over 90 percent of the sharks," Abernethy said.
Abernethy, who offers species encounters with sharks, said he will no longer bait in rough waters. The incident proved that it was too dangerous. He said he has full-range of motion in right arm. He said it will be at least ten days before his doctors clear him to get back into the water.
He was discharged from the hospital but doctors will continue checking his wounds to make sure that he does not develop any infections.
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