What began as a terribly executed commercial cage diving roll out in Hawaii just a few months ago has devolved into a government sanctioned witch hunt...with no end in sight.
We have been tracking ongoing developments in Hawaii as they happen.
Hawaii shark diving operators now find themselves with an active opposition, on the wrong side of an obscure fisheries law, and facing an anti-shark diving champion in government.
What brought this negative tide was a skillful use of media by the anti-shark diving folks and a puzzling and very damaging media silence from the operators.
There's still time for the operators to roll out a sustained media campaign based on Shark Diving=Tourism=Economy. As each day goes by articles like this recent AP report just add fuel to the anti-shark diving lobby and seal the fate for the existing operators to the will of local and regional governments. Action taken early in an unfolding disaster can and will mitigate problems down the line.
The media tends to follow the story, that story can be shaped by either side of an issue but someone has to lead it. As each anti-shark diving lobby piece comes in two pro shark diving articles must go out. This issue, as far as politicians are concerned, revolves around who has the most votes.
The loss of Hawaii would be a blow to the industry in the western hemisphere. Already new rules and regulations for the Farallones now require divers, cages and vessels to be 140' away from white sharks at all times. Florida remains shut down to commercial shark diving after a 2001 decision there.
HALEIWA, Hawaii (AP) — Three women donned scuba masks and jumped into the waters off Oahu's North Shore, floating inside a submerged cage as about a dozen sharks glided toward bloody fish scraps tossed into the water by a tour company.
Tourist Kim Duniec said the experience of coming eye-to-eye with sharks was exhilarating. "Their eyes were scary, but they were still graceful, absolutely beautiful," the Beaver Dam, Wis., woman said.
Shark tours like this have become a popular visitor attraction in Hawaii, but a movement is gaining momentum to shut them down.
Some Native Hawaiians consider sharks to be ancestral gods and view feeding them for entertainment to be disrespectful of their culture. Surfers and environmentalists fear the tours will teach sharks to associate people with food — leading to an increase in attacks — while disrupting the ocean's ecological balance. Federal fisheries regulators, meanwhile, are investigating the tours on the grounds that they are illegally feeding sharks.
The anti-shark tour movement ignited when residents noticed a large metal cage mounted on a boat at a marina in front of a popular Hawaii Kai restaurant in March. They remembered Oahu's two shark tours used similar contraptions on the North Shore. The location of the tours helped fuel the opposition — Hawaii Kai is an affluent bedroom community on the other side of Oahu.