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January 2002 Vol. 17, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Florida Shark Feeding Ban is Final ... Maybe

from the January, 2002 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The feeding of sharks and other marine life by divers was banned by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conserv a t i o n Commission on November 1, reaffirming a previous No vote on September 6. Commissioner Julie Morris led the ban by saying, For me, this is not about whether feeding marine life creates human health and safety issues. Its very clear that it alters marine life behavior, and I believe that its damaging to Floridas marine life.

Nevertheless, the dive industry has filed two lawsuits to stop the rule from taking effect, arguing that the FFWCC had no scientific basis for the ban. FFWCC general counsel Jim Antista, however, expressed confidence that the suits would be dism issed .

Before the September vote, the FFWCC had asked the dive industry to come up with feeding guidelines, and those included setting up special feeding areas, a.k.a. shark parks, in which no fishing or lobstering would be allowed to avoid user conflicts. Nevertheless, the four operators who run commercial shark feeding dives said the guidelines were unacceptable. Steve Waters, writing in the South Florida Sun Sentinel said that ticked off several commissioners and they voted 6-1 to ban the feedings. The November vote was 7-0.

Most embarrassing was a letter sent after the September 6 vote to public officials and to anyone else who would read it by the President of the Florida Association of Dive Operators, Spencer Slate. He embarrassed himself, as well as the entire indust ry, when he wrote, On September 6th and September 11th, a crime was committed against the citizens of America, the free world, our freedom of choice, and our constitutional rights. While the events of both days are very far apart in the magnitude of the crime and effect on the American people, both acts have made changes in Americans daily lives in a very negative and lasting way ... On September 6, our constitution was attacked, our freedom of choice and for many our freedom to make an honest living and support our families was changed forever. On that day you, the FFWCC voted a needless ban on the rights of choice we Americans have fought and died to make, go to the heart of what we stand for. To quote President Bush in his inspiring address to our nation on September 20, We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. I submit to you, Commissioners, your sacrifice of our way of life, by voting for the ban on September 6 was a threat to the freedom of every American. We will not stand by and let this ban happen any more than we will let those perpetrators escape punishment for the heinous crimes of September 11 ... You are guilty of directly attacking our way of life. You, above all, have no right to deny American citizens of their freedom of choice! This is not Afghanistan this is America!

-Ben Davison

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