Above is a video taken by Ridgefield, Connecticut couple David and Elena Barnes of themselves and their five-year-old daughter Anaia during a vacation with Power Boat Adventures in the Bahamas. In the 9-minute clip, the family snorkels in shallow water with a number of shark breeds (shown being fed by Power Boat employees at the opening of the clip), including mild nurse sharks as well as the more excitable and predatory lemon and Caribbean reef varieties. The video has hit 350,000 views on YouTube and provoked massive amounts of criticism from maritime professionals and parents alike. Before the comments were disabled, the San Franciso Gate's Mommy Files blog reposted a sample YouTube response from commenter luigib0511:
"I'm an experienced diver who did work for the Oceanic Association scuba diving with sharks and other dangerous fish. What this people have done is an outrage and an extreme stupidity. Swimming with sharks is not a Sea World adventure."
And on the outraged parents' front, Ericka Souter, editor of Café Mom parenting website TheStir, gave her two cents in the form of a sound bite when the Barnes' appeared to defend themselves on Good Morning America: "When you're an adult, you're allowed to be as reckless as you want to be, but as parents it's our job to protect our kids from reckless and dangerous behavior... We'd be having a very different conversation if the little girl had been attacked."
During the ABC interview, mom Elena clarifies why she sounded nervous at the beginning of the clip: "At no point did I feel that this was dangerous. It's like going on a rollercoaster. You're probably not gonna fall off, but it's still scary... life's too short to be boring."
Added dad David, "There's just always risk assessments in life every day. I'm more concerned that they don't put seatbelts in school buses."
So is this bad parenting or parent-shaming? In terms of hard statistics, an attack would have really defied the odds—29 of the 75 reported shark attacks last year took place in the US, most unprovoked, with 16 fatalities. An assistant curator at The Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk confirmed to a New Haven news station that attacks by these particular breeds were rare, but not unheard-of, and he wasn't sure if allowing a child to swim with them was the best idea. "I'd probably be a little bit more cautious, myself."
Either way, as far as Anaia is concerned, it was "really fun."
'Connecticut Parents Defend Allowing 5-Year-Old Daughter To Swim With Sharks In Bahamas (VIDEO)' [HuffPo]
'Parents share YouTube video of 5-year-old swimming with sharks' [The Mommy Files/SFGate]
'Video of 5-year-old swimming with sharks sparks YouTube outrage'