A Connecticut couple David and Elana Barnes have been widely criticized after they posted a video online of their 5-year-old daughter, Anaia, swimming with sharks in the Bahamas.
The YouTube video went viral online with many viewers attacking the couple, saying that their action was "dangerous" "reckless" and "irresponsible." A few viewers, however, praised the couple for their "adventurous nature," the Daily Mail reports.
The couple provoked even more angry reactions when they justified their action on ABC's Good Morning America, saying that "life is too short to be boring."
The video, according to the Daily Mail, was posted on June 20. According to the NY Daily News, the video shows Anaia, swimming the shallows waters off the Bahamas. The five-year-old is shown swimming with reef, lemon and nurse sharks, the Daily Mail reports. Anaia, however, does not swim alone. The Patch reports the family was accompanied by a trained instructor and other adults.
Before Anaia swims with the sharks, the video shows footage of a man feeding fish to them. We hear Elana telling her daughter: "The sharks are hungry. You have got to wait till they are full."
We also hear a swimmer joking at the end of the swim: "Nothing had us for lunch."
Anaia's mother, Elena, wrote in her YouTube post: "We swam with Reef, Lemon, and Nurse sharks, all very low on the aggression index, yet still very thrilling! Put it on your bucket list!"
In spite of the strong disapproval many have expressed about the couple's action, some experts say that nurse and lemon sharks are usually not aggressive towards humans. But reef sharks could be aggressive.
NY Daily News reports that John Lenzycki, assistant curator at The Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk said that nurse sharks were not very aggressive but lemon and reef sharks could be aggressive and sometimes show strong predatory behavior. He said he was not sure that it was a good idea to allow the little girl swim with the sharks. He said: “I’d probably be a little bit more cautious myself."
A lively debate continues online even after the information that the sharks were "low on the aggression index."
Daily Mail reports a viewer commented: "Precariously endangering the life of your child is something which obviously shows a complete lack of common sense."
A second viewer defended the couple, saying: "You have a better chance of being mauled by your family dog, struck by lightning, or getting into a car crash on your way to work then being attacked by one of these sharks."
A third said: “I don’t understand the outrage over this. It’s not like the kid was covered in chum and tossed into the water alone.”
The editor of CafeMom.com, Erika Souter, told Good Morning America, that it is important for parents to set the right example for their children. She said: “When you are an adult, you are allowed to be as reckless as you want to be. But as parents, it is our job to protect our kids from reckless and dangerous behavior."
Anaia's mother, Elana, however said that "at no point did I feel like this was dangerous." Elana said further that the company that runs the service said there had been no attacks in 20 years. The child's father also said on Good Morning America, "There’s just always risk assessments in life every day. I’m more concerned that they don’t put seatbelts in school buses."
WTNH reports that the couple, in a statement, said: "We always take safety very seriously in our family. Anaia knows not to get near a bike without a helmet, she was rear-facing in her car seat until age 3. At a very early age she knew not to approach a dog without asking it's owner. We teach her to respect all the creatures we share this planet with. Not all sharks are created equally, they vary as much as canines do. If someone is concerned about this, they can do the same research we did before booking this trip. I also would like to point out that at no time was Anaia more than five feet away from us, or closer than 20 feet from the sharks."
According to NY Daily News, Anaia said snorkeling with sharks was fun.