A couple of days ago, we wrote about an underwater altercation in which Rene Umberger, a staunch anti-aquarium activist, reportedly filmed herself being attacked by an aquarium collector. As the story was told, she was there to monitor and video the aquarium collector, who didn’t take so kindly to being filmed, as he swam over and pulled the SCUBA regulator from her mouth. The story went viral, prompting plenty of support for the activist turned victim, but it also drew limited support for the aquarium collector as folks on that side of the aisle felt Umberger was out of line for being there in the first place. Regardless of which stance you support, recent findings may turn the tide (at least to some extent) in favor of the aquarium collector.
The timing for the video’s release was never a question, that is until Sea Shepherd basically launched their new Operation Reef Defense at virtually the same time. What does Sea Shepherd have to do with any of this? Well, as part of this new campaign, they are claiming that it was “one of their own” who was attacked. Now, we’ve always known that Umberger has had close ties with the organization best known for their Whale Wars television show. She has been fighting against the aquarium industry in Hawaii for many years alongside folks like Robert “Snorkel Bob” Wintner, who just so happens to be the vice-president of Sea Sheperd.
So how does all of this new information affect the opinion on the underwater attack? Well, Sea Shepherd is well known as an “eco-terrorist” group. They use extreme, and often illegal and dangerous, methods to prevent their targets from doing whatever it is they’re doing. On Whale Wars, it was a common sight to see Sea Shepherd damaging whaling vessels, putting themselves in the line of fire, and even getting into physical altercations with members of a whaling ship’s crew. And that last one is the key point here. Sea Shepherd actively assaults people, and it wouldn’t be any stretch of the imagination to assume that Umberger, or any other member of her dive team on the day of the underwater attack, were set out to harass the aquarium collectors. Couple that with their well known reputation in Hawaii and you’ve got a volatile situation that could get someone seriously hurt.
We still do not condone the actions of this particular diver, but it should come as no surprise that individuals are starting to lash out against the eco-terrorist practices. Aquarium collectors are harassed on a daily basis, and not just while they are in the process of collecting. We’ve heard stories of harassing phone calls and visits to their residence, and we are positive that there are far worse things out there being done.
Getting back to the attack, however, we have some slight doubts that this event was even real in the first place. We are not claiming that this was fake and have zero proof of any kind to back up the position. It is all purely speculative on our parts. That said, an event like this could very easily be staged. You don’t see any faces (all are hidden by masks), nobody has been arrested as far as we know, and the virality of the story is suspect enough for us to doubt it. What would be a better way to gain public support for your cause than to have a victim who nearly lost his or her life while “serving” mankind and preserving coral reefs? There is none, and with today’s internet viral sensations, the story could get a million shares on social media sites and news outlets before even a single detail was verified. And given Sea Shepherd’s unorthodox way of enacting “conservation”, we wouldn’t put it past them to do something like this.