Some SCUBA diving operators use bait or chum to attract sharks so that their customers can get an up close and personal encounter. A new bill that would make this practice illegal in all U.S. waters has just been introduced into Congress. Section 3 of S. 3099, the “Access for Sportfishing Act of 2016,” contains the following provision:
“it is unlawful for any person—
“(1) to engage in shark feeding; or
“(2) to operate a vessel for the purpose of carrying a passenger for hire to any site to engage in shark feeding or to observe shark feeding…
…The term ‘shark feeding’ means the introduction of food or any other substance into the water to feed or attract sharks for any purpose other than to harvest sharks.”
Supporters of shark feeding say that letting divers interact with sharks this closely helps dispel myths and misunderstandings, and that attracting sharks with bait is the only way to ensure that divers will get to see them. Critics fear that shark feeding can result in changing sharks’ natural behaviors and learning to associate humans with food.
Feeding sharks is already banned in the state waters of some U.S. states, including Florida. Some dive operators in Florida have gotten around this ban by taking their customers out of Florida waters and into adjacent Federal waters, which would no longer be legal if this new bill becomes law. It is currently unclear how this bill will affect American citizens and/or American owned companies engaging in shark feeding outside of U.S. waters.
You can track the progress of this bill here.