In the most recent version of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Restoration Blueprint, NOAA has proposed a shark feeding ban. With one exception, IN THE CASE OF FEEDING SHARKS AND OTHER FISH TO HARVEST (KILL) THEM. This proposed rule would specifically prevent divers from shark provisioning to observe and photograph them. So, feeding sharks in order to trick them into being caught on a hook and line AND KILLED is acceptable. But using natural food to allow divers to observe or photograph sharks in the water is not allowed.
This new legislation is titled Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Restoration Blueprint: Updated Socioeconomic Supporting Documentation for the 2019 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and 2022 Proposed Rule. This proposed legislation attempts to extend restrictions into federal waters. Now, there is already a shark feeding ban in state waters.
To address the potential threat that the feeding of fish, sharks, or other marine species poses for human safety, the environment, and changes in fish behavior, NOAA is proposing the following regulation:
Prohibit attracting or feeding fish, including sharks, or other marine species from any vessel and/or while diving. Attracting or feeding does not include using bait or chum when conducting traditional fishing.
NOAA is asserting that the practice of provisioning sharks creates human safety issues. They were asked for evidence supporting this claim but has not provided any. Research from leading shark scientists does not support this claim. Instead, it indicates that provisioning ecotourism does NOT create an increased risk for non-divers and swimmers not directly engaged in provisioning ecotourism activities.
Our Take on Shark Feeding
Of course, we participate in shark feeding and have seen the benefits to our guests without any observable change in shark behavior. The animals migrate off and return each season as expected. They are clearly continuing to hunt on their own as we are offering a small snack at the most. They are healthy, regularly pregnant, and even show fresh mating scars during our season. So, they are carrying on as normal despite our presence and feeding. If you’re interested in reading more about this research, check out this posting on our blog.