Shark Diving in the Florida Keys

by Capt. Eric Billips

Shark Diving in the Florida Keys

A very taboo subject. You have many different types or groups of people with a very differing opinion on shark diving. You have the group who is terrified of sharks and everything about them. These people can barely look at a shark in an aquarium let alone dive with them! Their minds are convinced that they, without a doubt, will be chewed up and swallowed immediately if they go diving with sharks. Due to media outlets cashing in on a very naive public, most people are terrified of sharks. I can understand why people with no knowledge or research would come to this conclusion after they watch shark week or any other shark drama show. But they are wrong. 

Then you have the extreme conservationists. This group is one of the most outspoken. They are quick to arrogantly speak up, even without personal knowledge or research, on anything that they think may alter or harm the ocean’s resources. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for protecting the ocean’s critters and corals. And I don’t just say it and donate some money to the cause and act like I’m an expert. I do it everyday. I teach it, and I practice it. Whether it’s coral conservation, shark conservation or fish conservation. I live in the ocean and my family is fed by people coming here to see the ocean. The ocean is mine and my family’s livelihood and I will do everything in my power to insure it will be here for future generations. That being said, some people can be a little overzealous when it comes to “regulations” and conservation. When it comes to shark diving, they immediately think that sharks will be fed in order to bring them in for divers to see them. And therefore sharks will now relate divers with food and eat all the divers that dive in that area. Mind you numerous shops in the Bahamas, Fiji and right here in Florida have been doing this for countless years without incident. Or another argument I’ve heard is that if sharks are chummed in or fed this will alter there normal feeding habits and they will die of starvation. They always end with “its just a matter of time and someone shark diving will pay the price” Their argument is based on nothing; no science, no research… nothing. They base it on, mostly, what everyone else bases this argument on; media, especially social media. The same media that terrifies the nation about sharks. FishMonster Magazine-May/June 2016

I don’t claim to be a shark expert. I don’t have a degree in marine biology. I didn’t study sharks in a classroom at some university in the midwest. What I have done is dove with them…lots. I’ve interacted with them. I’ve been purposely attacked by them for science, (you can watch the video). I’ve played with them and swam with them. I’ve done shark dives in the Bahamas, California and Florida. I’ve dove with Bulls, Hammers, Tigers, Lemons, Reef, Dusky, Nurse and yes even the Great White with no cage. Does this make me an expert? Absolutely not. Does it make me more of an informed person than your typical couch-riding-shark show-watcher, yup.

So I’d like our FishMonster reader’s feedback. Now I know most fishermen want nothing to do with sharks. They see the carnage they do and think anything close to being in the water with them is nuts. Most of these fellas have never dove with them but are quick to give an opinion. And I’m ok with that. The more feedback the better. Ok so here it is, what are everyone’s thoughts on Shark Encounter Dives? The dives would not be shark feeds. It would be a dive at a location that has been cultivated by certain divers to attract sharks. So when the divers are diving this particular spot, the chance of a shark encounter will be high. The dives will also be conducted with conservational attitude. Meaning that each diver will learn about sharks and why they are threatened and need our help. They will also learn the truth about many myths and propaganda spread by media outlets. The purpose will be to inform and educate divers on sharks and than to actually dive with these majestic creatures. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Please write to me at info@islamoradadivecenter.com.




Capt. Eric Billips
Capt. Eric Billips

Author

As a Captain and  PADI Master Instructor Capt. Eric is an advocate for safe spearfishing and protecting our oceans resources, Eric has authored books, conducted seminars, and continually teaches this lifestyle at his dive shop. “The Islamorada Dive Center” a full service PADI dive resort located at the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina 305-664-DIVE (3483)



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