“Amelia Island, Florida
September 6, 2001
After two years of heated debate, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) today dropped further consideration of proposed voluntary “guidelines” for shark feeding dive tours, and moved instead to proceed with the rulemaking process that would lead to a complete prohibition on the deliberate baiting or attraction of marine wildlife in all State marine waters for any purpose other than traditional fishing.
If finally approved (expected at the next meeting of the FFWCC), Florida would become the first state to enact such a ban, which is designed to protect both wildlife and people from risks associated with divers feeding sharks and other dangerous marine animals.
The Marine Safety Group, a south Florida non-profit public advocacy group that first brought this issue to the Commission’s attention and subsequently led the two-year fight leading to today’s decision, praised today’s action as a victory for both the environment and public safety. In summary response to the Commission’s decision, MSG President Bob Dimond said, “The FFWCC did the right thing today, despite intense pressure from a small but well-funded group seeking to maintain the status quo.”
During the FFWCC public comment period preceding today’s action, Dimond summed up the position of the coalition of environmental groups supporting the proposed ban: “The feeding of marine wildlife constitutes a wholly unjustifiable endangerment of wildlife, coastal ecosystems, and recreational users of our coastal waters. The message conveyed – that it’s perfectly OK to feed, touch or ride marine wildlife, or to turn these wonderful creatures into trained circus performers for a fast buck – is directly contrary to the most fundamental of wildlife conservation messages – keep our wildlife and our wild places wild”.
Today’s decision comes on the heels of the worst U.S. shark attack weekend in recent history, which, despite efforts by scientists and government to ease public fears, was anything but “normal” with two killed and one seriously injured in two separate shark attacks along the southeastern U.S. coast. “While the Marine Safety Group does not maintain that there is evidence specifically linking any of the horrific shark attacks of this past summer to shark feeding tours, these tours clearly increase the public risk of such attack, said David Earp, MSG co-founder. “With more and more people sharing the water, these activities must stop.”
Dr. Bill Alevizon, marine biologist and scientific advisor to MSG, explained the link between shark feeding dives and public risk this way: “According to most experts, shark attack rates are directly proportional to the concentrations of sharks and humans occupying the water at the same time. That being the case, it follows that shark feeding dive operations increase risk of attack by (1) concentrating abnormally large numbers of sharks in comparatively small areas that are in many cases also heavily used by the public, and (2) methodically teaching these animals to associate people in the water with food.”
Mr. Dimond had high praise and thanks for the many other environmental organizations that joined MSG in the two-year fight to enact the ban. These included: World Wildlife Fund,
Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the U.S., Reef Relief, Environmental Defense, Watchable Wildlife, Inc., and the Surfrider Foundation. “It has been a real team effort”, Dimond said.
Copyright 2001. The Marine Safety Group, Inc. www.marinesafetygroup.org
Contact: Bob Dimond (954) 427 4672
Bill Alevizon (760) 409 4702