Shark-Related Tourism Is Now Banned in Mexico’s Cage-Diving Capital

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Shark sightings keep tourists away in most parts of the world, but that hasn’t been the case around Guadalupe Island. For years, the Mexican destination has attracted thrill-seekers looking for close encounters with great whites in a safe environment. The island’s 2022 shark watching season may turn out to be its last, as Mexico has banned all shark-related tourism within the Isla Guadalupe Biosphere Reserve (which includes the island), CNN reports.

The new law aims to minimize human interference with the marine ecosystem. Some of the most popular tourist activities off the coast of Guadalupe Island are cage dives, which allow divers to see great whites face-to-face in their natural environment. The waters are often chummed with fish blood and parts to attract the predators, and such baiting can make them behave more aggressively. The ban also prohibits drones in most cases, which can also be used to distribute chum offshore.

Some businesses operating in the area view this as the end of tourism to the island. Great white shark season typically lasts from July to November, and companies have already had to issue full refunds for the upcoming summer. Others are holding out hope that the restrictions are only temporary.

“The great white shark national park at Guadalupe Island will reopen,” Nautilus Dive Adventures posted on its website. “It might be tomorrow or it might be in five years time.” For now, the Canada-based tourism company has paused bookings for its cage-diving trips.

Cage diving remains the only safe option for great white shark fanatics itching to see the creatures up close. They can’t be found in aquariums, despite numerous unsuccessful attempts to keep them alive in captivity. For the time being, cage diving is still legal in other shark hotspots around the world, including South Africa and California’s Farallon Islands. And if that experience sounds too close for comfort, you can always wait until Shark Week to get your great white fix.

[h/t CNN]