Tourist's death sparks shark-diving debate

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Posted by on March 02, 2008 at 20:06:08:

Denise Herzing used to love starting her mornings at sea with a dip in the reef-protected waters off Grand Bahama.

When she was out on dolphin-observation trips near Memory Rock -- off the island's West End -- the marine mammalogist would anchor in a spot that was usually safe from predatory sea animals.

But those swims ended a few years back when unexpected guests crashed the party. More than a half-dozen lemon sharks began circling her boat, conditioned by humans to associate people with food.

Herzing, a Florida Atlantic University professor and treasurer of the Wild Dolphin Project, blames shark-baiting, cage-less divers like Jim Abernethy. He is the Riviera Beach business owner whose diving trip to the Bahamas last weekend ended with the death of an Austrian tourist.

''Feeding the sharks changes their behavior,'' Herzing said. ``It's just like feeding bears at Yellowstone. It makes them associate humans with food. It makes them more aggressive. It endangers people.''

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