While most beachgoers or surfers in Northern California would prefer never to meet up with great white sharks, some folks are actually paying big bucks for the privilege of such an encounter. Several adventure boat operators have been sailing tourists out to the Farallon Islands, where the sharks are known to be present, and sending them beneath the ocean’s surface in protective cages. This budding business is as yet unregulated, with no policies in place to prevent boat operators from baiting the sharks with decoys or chum, which alters both shark behavior and diet. Patric Douglas, owner of Absolute Adventures-Shark Diver, has become concerned about the potential impacts of the adventure tourism he’s spent the past few years promoting. Increasing controversy between researchers at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and tour operators has motivated Douglas to self-impose a ban on underwater shark tourism, sacrificing a reported $225,000 in revenues this year alone. Douglas is currently in the process of encouraging the other four boat operators who visit the Farallones to follow his lead and institute a two-year halt on cage-diving and shark baiting so researchers can study the effects of these practices on the sensitive shark population.
Bay Nature magazine ◦ July-September 2003