Blacktip Island’s Eagle Ray Divers has launched a new dive pricing model designed to aid the Caribbean island’s marine laboratory’s fish population studies.
“Historically, reef fish surveys have been sporadic and of questionable reliability,” Blacktip Aquatic Research Station director Olive Beaugregory said. “The program we worked out with ERD will give us daily, accurate population counts from the island’s most-dived sites.”
“We’re charging divers by how many fish they see,” Eagle Ray Divers operations manager Ger Latner said. “Our divemasters have charts with check boxes to debrief dive guests as soon as they climb back on the boats.
“It’s a set fee per fish, with a sliding scale according to species,” Latner said. “We charge more for the good stuff. You see a parrotfish? That’s $1. A stingray’s $5. A green moray’s $7.50. You see a whale shark? Open up your wallet.”
The model’s creators assured scuba diving guests the plan isn’t as radical as it sounds.
“We’ve simply unbundled the dive experience,” Eagle Ray Cove resort owner Rich Skerritt said. “Divers who kneel in the sand and watch jawfish are a lot less work for our divemasters than yahoos who motor across three dive sites trying to see everything. It’s a safety issue.
“We’re happy to give the research station the data it needs,” Skerritt said. “And if we happen to increase our profit margin in the process, well, that can’t be helped.”
The Eagle Ray Divers staff say the new pricing has already made their jobs easier.
“It’s cut down the posers who come up claiming they saw seahorses, frogfish and nudibranchs,” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Gage Hoase said. “They don’t make that B.S. up if they know it’ll cost them, and we don’t have to deal with the rest of the divers hacked off because they think we didn’t show them something.”
Dive guests were less enthusiastic.
“When they told me there’s a dollar sign on each fish, I told them I didn’t see a damn thing,” Eagle Ray Divers guest Al Flagg said. “Can I help it if my mask was fogged, you know what I mean?”
Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt wasn’t concerned about possible loopholes.
“Some smart-ass says he saw nothing, we’ll charge him whatever we charge the top spotter on that dive,” Skerritt said.
“We’re also kicking around a complainer surcharge,” Latner said. “You come back carping about a bad dive when everyone else loved it, we’ll slap a reef shark or two on your bill.”
Neither Skerritt nor Latner would comment on reports Eagle Ray Divers had cancelled charters by several blind dive clubs.