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Date of Issue: March 05, 2008

Sandscript

Shark attack in Bahamas spurs national debate

Shark!

An Austrian tourist was the recipient of a shark bite last week and died in the Bahamas. The "attack" came as a result of chumming of the critters, which has been an issue in Florida for many years.

According to wire service reports, Markus Groh, 49, an attorney from Austria, was swimming with the fishes when he got a little too much up-close-and-personal. A shark hit him in the calf and, before he could get to any sort of aid, he died.

Chumming sharks is a regular practice in the waters off Florida and the Bahamas. It's popular. It's dangerous. Danger-seeker divers love it.

The deal is that dive crews drop a big hunk of bait-like stuff in the water. The shark bait looks like a bale of hay, and is about that size.

Sharks come to the food and start to eat in a frenzy. The divers get a glimpse, or more, of the sharks feeding. The divemasters get a bunch of money from each of the divers. Everybody leaves happy.

The practice was challenged for years and, in 2001, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was successful in regulation the practice in state waters. It's still good to go in the Bahamas, though, and so it goes.

Bahamian officials have said that the dive trips are dangerous, but have not stopped such trips in their waters.

Groh's death is the first involved in the chumming-shark deal ever.

 

Go back a bit

Capt. Jimmy Abernethy was the owner of the dive ship "Shear Water" from which Groh dove. It's not clear from reports if Abernethy was on board.

Jimmy lived in a dorm at the University of South Florida in Tampa with me many years ago. I knew him. He was fun, loved to dive and loved the water.

According to reports, he was devastated by the death of a fellow diver.

"At this time," he told wire service reports, "my heart and soul goes out to the loved ones and family members who are affected by this unfortunate accident."

 

Guidelines?

There is a bit of hoo-ha regarding the need of cages for such shark-chumming.

Does it make sense?

Well, for folks like me, of course.

For those adventure-seeker whackos, who knows?

Sharks are not the most dangerous critters in the sea. They don't try to eat us c heck, we're not natural food for a shark as is a big fish or a seal.

But sometimes a shark will bump against a swimmer or surfer and cause some problems.

The solution?

Be careful out there.

 

Other shark news

Have you seen the photos of the sharks schooling off Southeast Florida in the past few days? It's an astonishing sight.

It would seem that thousands of sharks are hanging out off the Miami-Fort Lauderdale coastline, just hanging out and having a good time.

Yikes!

And please remember that we've got a hammerhead season coming up pretty soon of our own.

It seems that those big funny-looking sharks like to eat tarpon. Tarpon come close to the beach. People are close to the beach. Oh, my!

As said before, be careful out there.

 

Sandscript factoid

Perhaps partly in the wake of the film "Jaws," shark populations throughout the world have drastically declined. There has also been an incredible increase of shark fins in Asia, where is considered a delicacy and highly priced.

Some species of shark have had a 98 percent decline in the past few years.

Why don't we let our toothy friends go free?

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