Florida dive boat operators face charges of illegal shark feeding

News Release

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

20. March 2014


Dive boat operators face charges of illegally feeding sharks in state waters

Florida_shark1Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have filed charges against four men linked to the illegal feeding of sharks and fish within state waters.

The investigation started after the FWC received several complaints that shark feeding was taking place off the coast of Palm Beach County during dive charter trips. One complainant told dispatchers she was on a dive trip where sharks were being fed. The person said the sharks had become so aggressive she had to get out of the water.

“This is a public safety issue,” said FWC Maj. Camille Soverel. “The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement wants to ensure these beautiful coastal waters remain safe for divers.”

FWC investigators and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), working jointly, conducted two separate investigations involving two northern Palm Beach County dive charter operators. On Feb. 8, deputies from the PBSO dive team took part in a dive trip on board Emerald Charters of Jupiter. During the dive, video was taken of Randall Jordan feeding sharks by hand while within state waters. He also used a milk crate filled with fish chunks to lure sharks to his location. Thomas Smith was operating the vessel during the dive.

On Feb. 22, the deputies took another dive trip on board the vessel Miss Jackie, which is owned by Luis Roman of Orlando and operated by Toni Crumrine. The boat was used by the Lake Park-based company Calypso Dive Charters. During this trip, deputies took video of Roman feeding a goliath grouper and a lemon shark. Video also shows Roman trying to lure sharks to his location by shaking a milk crate filled with barracuda chunks. Both feeding incidents happened in state waters.

FWC investigators and PBSO divers used several GPS devices and other methods to confirm these activities were occurring in state waters, which, in the Atlantic, is within (or up to) 3 nautical miles from the nearest point of Florida coastline. Fish feeding in Florida waters has been illegal since 2002.

The FWC presented results from the joint investigations to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, which charged Jordan, Smith, Roman and Crumrine with operating a vessel for hire within state waters to allow passengers to observe fish feeding. Jordan and Roman were also charged with fish feeding. These are second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Source: FWC



  1. Illegal fish feeding activities only make the boat and operators money.

    Re: 06/02/2009 Katrina Tipio ( Egypt ) ***Fatal***
    Postby helmi » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:02 am

    LATEST NEWS 03 / 06 / 09

    Woman killed by shark in Red Sea
    By Simon Rogerson

    A woman has been attacked and killed by an oceanic white-tip shark while snorkelling in southern Egypt. 

    The attack took place in a part of St John’s Reef, where safari liveaboards had been illegally feeding sharks days before the attack.

    The woman, a French tourist in her 50s, was part of a group on the liveaboard Le Nautile when the attack took place. About 20 snorkellers were in the water observing the shark when the woman moved away from the group and duck-dived towards it.

    According to Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CWDS), the woman was bitten on the leg when she surfaced, and the shark was still biting her as she was pulled onto the boat. Once on the boat, the woman lost consciousness and died soon after.

    Such attacks are extremely rare in the Red Sea, and there have been suggestions that the shark’s behaviour was affected by shark feeding that had taken place in the same area. ‘Two safari boats had been involved in feeding sharks in this area,’ CDWS spokesman Mary Gleeson said. ‘Investigations by both the National Park and CDWS are already underway, and if the allegations are found to be true, the boat operators will face severe penalties.

    ‘Shark-feeding is a serious violation of Red Sea rules, and an act that can severely disturb the sensitive marine eco-system and behaviour of marine animals.’

    The last person killed by a shark in Egypt was another snorkeller attacked near Sharm El Sheikh in 2004, according to the Global Shark Attack File. 


    • Wow, and this is how you create a relationship between shark feeding and shark bites? The fact that she was diving towards an Oceanic White-tip had nothing to do with it? It was the fact that someone was feeding sharks days before the attack?

  2. Martin,
    I am looking for the 25 investigated incidents occurring in French Polynesia directly related to shark feeding. Also some other Egypt incidents where the victims hands were removed believed to be because of hand feeding sharks. 
    The Shark Research Institute has seen such an increase in bites due to hand feeding of sharks they do not support the practice.
    The ISAF was paid by PADI not to list any incident involving shark feeding..
    Also remember in Florida this is not a shark feeding law it is a fish feeding law. We had all kinds of fish dying because people were feeding tropicals canned cheese. 
    In Florida if you want to alter a fishes natural feeding, then harvest it, we want our fish to survive naturally. 
    Al Brenneka

  3. I’m not sold on the shark feeding causes sharks to bite humans, with the exception of the active feeding, where the feeder might get bit. Florida, with no shark feeding had plenty of bites during the same time that the Bahamas, with shark feedings, had none.


  4. Martin,
    Just got back from my local dive shop which uses these operators so you know what’s going on. It sure does pay well to be a game violator. Randy was out today charging 500.00 per person for being a game violator. 
    The end result is no Florida registered boat can be involved in fish feeding. The Bahamas would love to take out the Florida connection, so all bahamian shark dives be on Bahamian boats with Bahamian employees.

  5. I’m not defending anyone violating fish and game regulations. My issue is with associating shark feeding with shark attacks.

  6. There still isn’t any proof shark feeding causes innocent beach goers to be attacked. There are several suspicious incidents though.
    Florida just doesn’t want to pay attorneys every time there is an attack because they allowed fish feeding. It’s not a safety issue, but rather a money issue here.
    Abernathey, Slate, Ritter all had a good case back when the law was a battle and should have won, but state attorneys found ways they could be named in lawsuits and law was passed.

  7. From my observation at Guadalupe, fishing causes sharks to congregate in an area, hoping for an easy meal, more than shark diving and feeding. We had fishing boats, (back when it was legal) calling us to try to get the sharks away from them. We were never successful in doing so.

    What politicians and lawyers know about sharks, has very little to do with reality. ie Shark cull in WA

  8. Look at fishing piers. Car parking, bathrooms, food are located at the pier and where are the sharks looking for an easy meal, at the pier. 

  9. Angel

    Assuming shark feeding has no impact on shark behavior is an easy road. I think shark feeding and calling the sharks to eat changes their behavior for sure. Does it lead to more attacks on humans is another story.
    Egypt cases are mostly build around the ignorance of the captains and skippers as well as the type of shark they call in to watch during snorkeling.
    I think the best case was the Maldives argument. The European dive operators were running the shark feeding show until sharks started to bite the customers. Than the ban came and no reported incidence since.  It is almost 30 years now…
    Martin, Guadalupe may not resemble the best example for practice shark feeding. Most of the dives are caged and there are not many people who swim around and enjoy the ocean other than professionals. There is no normal people 😉  

    • Actually, I’m not assuming that shark feeding has no impact on shark behavior. There is a study that dealt with that issue.


      Divers getting bit, while feeding is a different thing than divers getting bit without any active feeding.

  10. Angel

    You have a good point also we need to add that if the sharks hear similar sounds that mimics a feeding activity they come very close to divers that opens a window for an encounter.
    Let me tell you 2 of my experiences.
    One was in a regular open water dive in Roatan Bay islands, Honduras. It was the end of a very nice 10 day diving holiday and the boat was less than 4 divers total who still wanted to dive the last day. Me being one asked the skipper to try an unknown diving spot. Since he knew us for 10 days(diving skills) and the number of divers were very low, he said OK lets try it. We went to a spot which is around 5-6 miles off shore but still on the shelf and shallow, around 15 m maximum depth. I jumped in with a snorkel to see if there is currents or a good view. A perfect diving spot. I jumped back, geared up. We anchored and we all got into the water. First minute of the dive we were in and reached the corals. In 2 minutes we were surrounded with 20-30 mid to large gray reef sharks, which was fantastic for us and very surprising as well. The sharks were touching us while passing close, they were not shy at all. So we all sat down on the reef opening our backs covered by a rock and our knees on the sandy reefs. We watched them for about 10 minutes and they were getting higher in numbers and size. We had to sit down and wait for them to calm down because it looked like they were getting anxious. To make it short we had to make a fast and risky ascent. After we went back to shore we realized that we were diving very close to a shark feeding hot spot.
    The second one was between  Indonesia and PNG on a long live aboard trip. When I take photos I sometimes get a plastic water bottle filled with bread to attract small fish around for a nice posing. In a spot close to and island.  I took the bottle and started squeezing to push the breads out. You know the sound it makes when you to it.
    I was trying to make a good picture when the biggest black tip shark I have seen hit me from the side. I pushed it away with the camera and very surprised to see that I was almost surrounded with black and white tips. I made great pictures and enjoyed it but my friends were in real discomfort because the sharks were coming at you directly. No sign of shyness. I had the camera to push them but most of my friends did have nothing. We later found out that some of the other dive boats use a similar sound to call them for fish feeding.
    So without even knowing I had 2 encounters 20,000 miles apart. They were both surprising because of shark feeding while we were not feeding the sharks.

  11. The sharks had become so aggressive she had to get out of the water….

    The Florida Dive boat operators were trying to skirt the regulations. Read about the investigation that led to their arrests.

    Ask law makers to punish lawbreakers. http://chn.ge/1nuVCDE 

    Please reread this. Both of these violations were in state waters. http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/

    FLFFWCC/bulletins/ac157d .

    The FWC says:

    “The person said the sharks had become so aggressive she had to get out of the water.” and “This is a public safety issue,” said FWC Maj. Camille Soverel. “The FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement wants to ensure these beautiful coastal waters remain safe for divers.”

    Contact the FWC with your questions and information on these crimes at: http://myfwc.com/about/inside-fwc/s/ or as a confidential informant at tip@myfwc.com

    If you want interact with wild sharks, remember the shark is in charge of the encounter. Baiting and feeding sharks is illegal and morally wrong.

    Ask law makers to punish the lawbreakers. http://chn.ge/1nuVCDE

    Captain John Russell
    FADI Florida Association of Diving Instructors
    MDEA Instructor Evaluator/Course Director
    NASE Worldwide Master Instructor
    SDI/TDI Instructor
    SSI Platinum 5000 Diver – 2011
    PADI Master Instructor

    • I totally agree that violating the law on shark feeding is not acceptable. I do however disagree that it is morally wrong, when done legally and responsibly.

      Shark reef in Fiji is a prime example, where responsible shark diving and feeding that involved the local fishermen, has lead to a healthy marine park that benefits everyone. They just celebrated their 10 year of safely operating their dives.

  12. Fiji doesn’t have Abernathy and these other yahoo’s. And who is to say there has been 10 years with no incidents? Burgess gets paid to insure as few divers as possible are involved in any incidents.

  13. Oh, no argument there. I have personally seen what some operators are doing and the extremes they are going to, to provide a “rush” for their divers.

    We like to focus on getting our divers interested in the sharks and not just see them as an adrenaline kick. That’s why we offer various trips with researchers on board, and our divers actually pay extra for those researchers to be on board. Those are the first trips to sell out.

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