sunday night / sharks are just big goldfish 'Shark Girl' Madison Stewart says she can change anyone's mind about sharks —...
Madison, 22, began diving with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef when she was seven and quickly came to the realization that these “ monsters and man eaters” are the victims of an identity crisis.
She is now a warrior for these feared creatures, diving with sharks and producing internet videos about their true nature.
But in a interview to air on Sunday Night, October 11, she says every time there is a shark sighting or attack her message is drowned out.
She says the media has created fear where there should only be caution.
"The second you are down there with them the second you get in the water and meet this animal," Stewart says in the interview.
"You kinda go, 'Huh.. I've been lied to my entire life'."
"I want to change the way this country looks at sharks."
Amid controversial shark culling programs and calls for nets and baited lines to protect swimmers at some of Australia’s most popular beaches, Sunday Night joins Stewart and controversial shark conservationist Jim Abernethy on a heart stopping adventure to explore an alternative view of sharks.
Abernethy leads dive tours to the Bahamas where it is illegal to catch or kill sharks.
"The biggest misconception without a doubt is that they are mindless man-eating monsters .. the facts don't support this in any way," Jim Abernethy says.
With nothing but a PVC pole for protection, reporter Rahni Sadler did multiple dives in water teeming with Tiger sharks. So close she could touch them.
"These sharks had every opportunity to attack and they did nothing more than play," she says.
"What we've learned is ... they have highly sensitive teeth and taste cells in and around their mouth and it’s often not until a shark takes a bite that it realizes it doesn’t actually want to eat a human."
For safety the dives were conducted under the strict supervision of shark diving professionals but Jim’s rules for all divers include maintaining eye contact with a tiger shark and if one approaches put the PVC pole in the ground as a barrier, vertically so the shark can’t snatch it in its mouth.
"They're just big goldfish," Abernethy claims in the interview.
"I do worry one of these sharks will make a mistake which is why I am so strict about the rules we have in place," Abernethy said.
"Sharks don't eat people, they don't pay any attention to me at all."
Rahni's story airs Sunday October 11, on Channel 7, at 7PM.