Commission works to ban shark feedings

Friday, September 7, 2001

AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- A state commission Thursday moved to ban shark-feeding scuba dives in Florida following two deadly shark attacks along the East Coast over the Labor Day weekend.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 7-1 for a total ban on feeding marine animals by people in the water. The proposed rule could become effective after a hearing and a subsequent final vote in November.

Several commissioners expressed fear that sharks could be conditioned to associate humans with food.

Tour operators told the commission that the dives are safe and that no tourists have ever been bitten.

The ban will not take effect until after another public hearing in November, but there appeared to be little chance the vote would be changed.

There have been more than 40 shark attacks in U.S. coastal waters this year, including 29 in Florida. On Saturday in Virginia Beach, Va., a 10-year-old boy was fatally mauled in the surf. Two days later, a shark killed a man and gravely injured his girlfriend off a North Carolina beach.

The ban would also extend to other marine animals, including manatees, barracudas, moray eels and manta rays. Federal rules already prohibit the feeding of dolphins in the wild.

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