March 7, 2000
To Whom It May Concern:
We, at Green Reef, deem it necessary to update the community on the current controversy of shark diving in Belize. During the past year, a position was taken by the Belize Barrier Reef Committee (BBRC) to possibly discontinue shark diving at the Blue Hole due the supposedly dangerous nature of this activity. In response, Green Reef wrote a letter in late November to both the Belize Audubon Society (BAS), the organization responsible for the management of the Blue Hole National Monument (a common shark diving site), as well as to the BBRC, the body responsible for marine related issues in Belize. In this letter we stated our position of support in regards to shark diving at the Blue Hole, and that according to several sources (including neighboring countries that offer shark diving), it is not considered to be dangerous. Furthermore, we stated that shark diving should be promoted to ensure Belize's competitive ranking as a dive destination, as well as to increase awareness of this often neglected and over fished marine creature.
Over the past few months, many developments have unfolded. For one, in early December, BAS responded to our letter by stating that they had no official position on shark diving at the Blue Hole and that all stakeholders (dive operators and tour guides) would be contacted and surveyed before a final decision was made. Then, at the most recent BBRC meeting on February 4th, we learned that the committee decided that "no shark feeding or feeding of animals in general should take place within marine protected areas." In addition, it was agreed that shark diving would also be discontinued and that the relevant legislation would be amended accordingly.
We, at Green Reef, feel this recent decision to discontinue shark diving is cause for concern, in that it will surely effect the tourism industry, particularly in San Pedro, since the Blue Hole (and shark diving) is a popular attraction among the tourists that visit this island. Moreover, as far as shark feeding is concerned, we question how the ban on feeding will effect species located at Shark Ray Alley, a protected area that attracts many sharks and rays, animals that have become accustomed to daily feedings from tour guides. When there is no more food to be had, will these creatures simply look elsewhere? Ultimately, though, our primary concern is that the discontinuation of shark diving and shark feeding at popular sites that attracts thousands of tourists annually, will likely diminish the conservation value of sharks, thus increasing the likelihood of shark hunting to continue.
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