David and Elena Barnes, a couple from Ridgefield, Conn., have found themselves on the defensive after posting a video of their 5-year-old daughter swimming with sharks. The footage was shot during the family's recent vacation when they booked an outing with Power Boat Adventures in the Bahamas.
In the 9-minute clip, which has nearly 350,000 views on YouTube, little Anaia is on screen snorkeling in shallow water with different varieties of sharks. Early on, before she goes swimming, the adventure company's employees are shown feeding dead fish to the sharks, and at one point, a leader pulls a shark out of the water for everyone to see.
"Idiot Parents Defend the Indefensible," screams the headline of one post on Babble.com. And before the comments were disabled on the YouTube video, Amy Graff of The San Francisco Chronicle pulled an example of the type of vitriol that appeared there: “What this people have done is an outrage and an extreme stupidity," luigib0511 wrote. "Swimming with sharks is not a Sea World adventure."
But the Barnes family defended their choice 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,” she added.
According to ABC News, Anaia swam with nurse sharks, lemon sharks and Caribbean reef sharks.
WTNH reports that while nurse sharks have mild tempers, "lemon and reef sharks are higher on the predatory scale."
"We always take safety very seriously in our family," the Barnes family said in a statement released to WTNH. "...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 in 2011. Twelve people were killed by sharks in unprovoked attacks, and none of those fatalities occurred in U.S. waters.
To hear what 5-year-old Anaia had to say about the adventure, be sure to watch the entire Good Morning America interview above.
What do you think? Is this bad parenting? Low-risk adventure? Would you allow your child to swim with sharks? Let us know in the comments.WATCH: Anaia swims with the sharks: CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post indicated that Anaia swims with the sharks "throughout" the video when she actually swims with the sharks during the latter portion of the video. Additionally, an earlier version incorrectly spelled Anaia's name "Ania."