CONNECTICUT, United States, Wednesday July 11, 2012 – Would you let a five-year-old child swim with sharks? That’s the question on hundreds of thousands of lips after an American couple did just that and posted the video on YouTube to prove it.
David and Elena Barnes, a couple from Ridgefield, Connecticut, have since borne the brunt of a barrage of criticism – and worse – after the video of their five-year-old daughter swimming with sharks in the Bahamas went viral.
The footage was shot during the family’s recent vacation in the islands while on an outing with local watersports operators Power Boat Adventures.
The nine-minute clip, which has nearly 350,000 views on YouTube, depicts diminutive Anaia Barnes snorkelling in shallow water with several different varieties of sharks.
Earlier in the video, Power Boat Adventures’ employees were shown feeding dead fish to the sharks.
After making headlines from Australia to Pakistan, the Barnes’ parenting choices have come under blistering attack.
Before comments were disabled on the YouTube video, The San Francisco Chronicle pulled an example of the type of invective that appeared there: “What these people have done is an outrage and an extreme stupidity,” luigib0511 wrote. “Swimming with sharks is not a Sea World adventure.”
The Barnes family nevertheless staunchly defended their actions in an interview on Good Morning America.
“At no point did I feel like this is dangerous,” Elana Barnes told ABC’s Bazi Kanani. “Life is too short to be boring,” little Anaia’s mother added.
According to ABC News, the five-year-old girl swam with nurse sharks, lemon sharks and Caribbean reef sharks.
Reports indicate that while nurse sharks have mild tempers, “lemon and reef sharks are higher on the predatory scale.”
But Anaia’s parents appear to think they know better.
“We always take safety very seriously in our family,” they said in a statement. “…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 the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were 75 instances of unprovoked shark attacks last year. Twelve people were killed by sharks in unprovoked attacks, and none of those fatalities occurred in United States waters.