I’m Captain Bill Godlschmitt, I co-wrote Sharkman of Cortez. I was also featured in the award winning documentary, The Shark Con. And I was the first charter captain in Florida to offer underwater cage dives. Nearly fifty years ago. That’s right, I was the first. My charter brochure proclaimed a guaranteed, face-to-face encounter with sharks or your money back. (I never had to return any money.) All this, long before Jaws.
As I said in the Shark Con movie, “After the thrill-seekers and photographers went down in my cage and took their pictures, I killed the sharks.” And I NEVER let them interact with the sharks. No hand-feeding, no touching and no getting out of the cage. Lots of ’em wanted to push the envelope, but not on my boat. I had no shortage of eco-idiots as clients, but hand-feeding predators: sharks, gators, wolves, dinosaurs, it’s just plain stupid! Ain’t no sugar coating this –– it’s just plain stupid!
Unfortunately, divers feeding sharks see no harm in what they’re doing. The Bahamian government promotes it. The Bahamas is the shark dive capital of the world and as they proudly “protect” shark species, they are actually protecting an 80 million dollar per year shark tourism industry. Money trumping public safety.
Pro-shark advocated claim that my beliefs are not credible but in The Shark Con, George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File, and champion of Shark Protection would not dispute my assertion that shark behavior does become altered once humans begin feeding them. In the film he was quoted, “It’s like ringing the dinner bell. The sharks swam to the boat at the sound of the revving engine.” He didn’t want to chance anybody questioning his credibility.
Human and shark interaction is not only dangerous to divers but trouble for others who use our waters for recreation. And unlike thrill-seeking shark feeders, the bathers, surfers, snorkelers and fishermen don’t have the same death-wish. The sharks featured on Shark Week (Stuart Cove, etc.) the ones protected in the Bahamas, don’t STAY in the Bahamas. THEY MIGRATE. To Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, etc. Once they are accustomed to humans feeding them, they lose their fear of humans. They become more dangerous and aggressive (Where’s my food, Human?)
Take the recent fatal shark attack of Dr. John Petty, a 63 year old thrill seeker completely eaten by tiger sharks while diving aboard The Shear Water. The boat’s operator, Jim Abernathy’s Scuba Adventures (also featured on Shark Week) had lost another diver in 2008, Lawyer Markus Groh. Abernathy himself was once a victim of attack while feeding a lemon shark. Divers who claim that what they do does not alter shark behavior are self-centered and dead wrong.
Bahamas commercial diver David Rose, a professional spear-fisherman for 40 years, says, “It’s unsafe and should be banned in the Bahamas. But the tourist lobby is so powerful in this country, they make good money doing this.”
After the thrill-seekers get their pictures, return home and tell their friends how they cheated death, those predator sharks they leave behind (perhaps the ones that consumed Dr. Petty)will eventually find a child splashing in the water of Daytona beach. Then George Burgess can tell the Media it’s another “unprovoked attack”, and that there are “too many people in the water”, or it’s “mistaken identity” (are you a diver? Where’s my food?)
PETA, Mote Marine Lab and all the other Eco-nuts will chime in: sharks are nearly extinct, we need to save them, they’re essential to our ecosystem blah, blah, blah…but that is subject for another blog. I say,the only good shark is a dead shark!