Research foundation charged with luring white shark


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Posted by . on June 23, 2003 at 02:40:00:

This story was published Friday, June 20th, 2003

By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - A research foundation has been fined $21,000 for allegedly enticing a white shark to attack a mock-up of a fur seal for the taping of a cable television program, federal officials said Friday.

NOAA Fisheries alleges that Pelagic Shark Research Foundation researchers wanted the shark to jump out of the ocean so it could be filmed for the Discovery Channel program "Air Jaws II." Agency officials said they learned of the incident when white shark enthusiasts complained after the show aired.

Sean Van Sommeran, the Santa Cruz-based foundation's executive director, blamed the charge on a misunderstanding and said the foundation is appealing the matter to an administrative law judge.

"Everything we do is research-oriented, and this incident was no exception," Van Sommeran said. "We were not going out there to tease sharks."

NOAA alleges Shark Entertainment Inc. paid Van Sommeran and another foundation researcher to conduct shark research within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary near Ano Nuevo Island in 2001.

Luring sharks within the sanctuary was prohibited in 1997, NOAA said. It charged the foundation with violating the conditions of its research permit, and said the foundation is subject to sanctions that could affect how it conducts research.

Van Sommeran said the research was "basically proving that white sharks don't only jump at a certain particular location in South Africa," as others had believed. He added that sanctuary officials were properly notified of the filming.

Foundation researchers routinely lure sharks under their permit to tag them, Van Sommeran said.

He alleged the foundation was being tarred by "a very aggressive smear campaign" by opponents of the strict marine reserve regulations that the foundation helped write.




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