FLA Shark Feeding Ruling

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Posted by tleemay on September 08, 2001 at 13:11:12:

-Clipped from the SFBay-DIR eGroup-

By John Tuohy

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. - In a swift change of course, environmental
regulators Thursday agreed to ban shark feeding in Florida waters.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 6-1 to
write a rule that prohibits feeding of sharks and other marine
predators, including eels and rays. The rule will be considered at its
next meeting Oct. 31.

The action took diving tour operators, who feed the sharks to give
scuba diving tourists a close-up look at them, by surprise. The
commission had been expected to consider only rules to regulate, not
ban, shark-feeding dives.

"They basically bowed to pressure. They said let's bury these guys and
show the people of Florida we are doing something about sharks, even
though nobody has ever been seriously hurt on a dive," said Jim
Abernathy, owner of Jim Abernathy's Scuba Adventures in Palm Beach,
one of four shark-feeding tour companies in Florida.

Tour captains argued that feedings are educational because they teach
people sharks are not the aggressive killers they often are perceived
to be.

They disputed claims by conservationists that feeding sharks puts
people at risk because they learn to rely on them, and seek people for

But the commissioners appeared leery of both arguments. "We needed to
have some comfort that we weren't altering the sharks' behavior, and
we just couldn't get that," Commission Chairman David Meehan said.

Ironically, Meehan said, it was videotapes provided by the shark tour
guides in their own defense that convinced him the practice could
teach the predators dangerous habits.

"I didn't realize that there was such an abnormal concentration of
sharks when they were fed until I saw the videos," Meehan said. "It
was like they responded to the dinner bell."

Dan Wagner, an undersea documentary maker from Indialantic who feeds
sharks to get his best shots, said the vote will cost the state
tourist dollars.

"With no scientific proof that fish feeding underwater had anything to
do with any attacks anywhere, the commission put four people out of
business," he said.

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