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Shark Ecotourism Ban Controversy Heats Up
By Joseph Tepper, August 29, 2016 @ 01:03 PM (EST)
Source: Sun Sentinel

A controversial bill aimed at ending the practice of chumming sharks for the purposes of ecotourism is heating up the debate on both sides.

Last month, Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has put forward a bill that would ban feeding of sharks for ecotourism purposes—making it comparable to feeding bears or alligators. But a new article published in The Sun Sentinel provides the first comment from Nelson’s office.

"When people feed sharks, it can change their behavior and cause them to start associating people with food," said Ryan Brown, spokesman for Nelson. "This puts divers at risk, especially those who aren't diving in a protective cage. Florida law prohibits shark feeding in state waters, but the practice is currently unregulated in federal waters further from shore."

The only comprehensive study to investigate the relationship between baited shark dives and shark behavior found no correlation. And this is the point being argued by shark ecotourism operators: That shark baiting is not dangerous, doesn’t change the animal’s behaviors, and provides an important conservation service.

“The only way people come to know these animals is these Jaws movies and Sharknado movies,” Bryce Rohrer, the owner of Florida Shark Diving of Jupiter, told The Sun Sentinel.

“When they're in the water looking at this animal calmly swimming around, this amazing creature, you can see the transformation,” Rohrer continued. “When people come off my boat, they understand sharks, they've seen sharks, they see what they really are. They walk off my boat as proponents for sharks."

Read more opinions on the topic in the full article.




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