Waayy back in 2002, Floridian law makers, responding to a few folks with some good media connections and seeing a political opportunity banned shark diving in Florida's waters.
O.K they banned shark feeding, with the intent of banning shark diving - it worked.
Hailed as a "good idea" at the time Florida watched in 2008 as it's entire economy withered and died in response to the housing crises. Even tourism, Florida's staple economic driver, almost collapsed.
Meanwhile, in the Bahamas, just a few miles away shark tourism grew, and grew, and grew. It's an 80+ million dollar Tourism Juggernaut and it was created entirely by the decisions of Florida almost a decade ago.
Stop and consider for one moment $80 million dollars - those are compelling numbers.
Shark tourism has defied every tourism paradigm. It continued sustainable growth in the face of shark bites, economic downturns, and negative media. It is predicated on one simple principal - people want to interact with sharks.
In the intervening decade the perception of sharks, thanks to the tireless work of countless individuals and the blending of shark conservation messaging with commercial shark diving, arrived at a sustainable place where Florida should now consider allowing commercial shark diving back in Florida waters.
Because sustainable operations with hard and fast protocols could well be regional economic drivers.
The value of commercial shark diving to the state of Florida could be in excess of $400 million dollars, given the size of the state, the numbers of tourists, and access to sharks.
It is time for enlightened Floridian lawmakers to look back at the $80 million dollar mistake of the past and look to a future where the commercialization of sharks, conservation, and even research can be blended into sustainable operations that boost the economy.
Alternately, Florida can continue to watch double digit tourism growth with sharks in the Bahamas and feel the sting of tourism dollars leaving the State of Florida.
In the world of tourism, especially wild animal encounters, the number one rule for lawmakers is, "never take an option off the table - forever."
You never know when technology, demand, or public sentiment will change.
Leaving your tourism suite - short changed.
About Shark Diver.
As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.