Stuart Cove, owner of Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas on New Providence, spoke out against proposed regulations to ban chumming in The Bahamas.
Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Michael Pintard announced several potential legislative changes to deal with sharks on Monday, weeks after an American woman died after being attacked by sharks off Rose Island.
Cove, who has been diving with and feeding sharks throughout his career, said that chumming is not the issue.
“These shark bites, there was an unfortunate one where a girl was killed, had nothing to do with shark dives and shark feeding dives, which the closest one is over 30 miles away,” he said.
“None of these bites have anything to do with shark feeding. We’ve been going for 40 years without one incident, over a million occurrences with visitors and introducing them to interacting with sharks in a very safe, controlled environment.
“And it just drives me nuts when people point the finger at us when we are not the problem. The problem is every place where you clean fish on the beach, Potter’s Cay.
“There’s hundreds and hundreds of people who are feeding sharks, possibly not on purpose, but involuntarily feeding sharks.
“We do it purposefully, but we do it in a controlled fashion. We have protocols set up with the Bahamas Diving Association that we all follow, including emergency procedures and education procedures.”
Pintard said that the government is also considering regulating where people discard waste after cleaning fish, noting that the fish remains should not be thrown in water near where others are swimming.
Cove said that while he believes the practice is an issue, he does not see how the government will be able to regulate it.
“You know that sounds great in [theory], but how are you going to enforce it?” he asked.
“[If] I catch a bunch of yellow tails and jacks and I am sitting on this boat scaling on them and gutting them. How are you going to control that? I mean this has been going on forever, and because of this one death…”
Cove expressed disappointment that the government had not consulted with him or other experts in the diving industry on the matter.
“Not one of them has come to the Bahamas Diving Association for our advice, and we are experts in the field, you know,” he said.
“Not that I’m aware of.”
Cove said he believes the country’s current laws are sufficient, but that people need to be realistic about sharks.
“I think everything needs to stay just the way it is,” he said.
“There’s going to be another shark fatality in the future. It’s just the nature of more people in the water and more people enjoying it.
“But if you spearfish, I think they’ve got to make it clear that you’re hunting, but you’re also being hunted. You can’t really educate people when it comes to this. People are going to do what they want to do, and The Bahamas, I laugh when they say we’re going to regulate fish cleaning.
“We can’t regulate [expletive] in The Bahamas. We’re a country of no consequences. We’ve got all the regulations in the world, but we can’t enforce it.”
Cove said he has been shark diving and feeding for his entire career.
“If it’s one thing I know, it’s this, sharks. You treat sharks properly, and you respect them and if you’re going to interact with them, you do it in a controlled manner as outlined in the Bahamas Dive Association protocols, there’s not going to be any troubles.
“Like I said, the Bahamas Diving Association has done over a million interactions with sharks without one incident, and this unfortunate fatality and this terrible tragedy had nothing to do with shark diving. This was people feeding fish off the beach.”