ATLANTA -- As beachgoers warily eye shark-infested East Coast waters that claimed three more victims over the Labor Day weekend, a critic of government regulation has caused a stir by arguing that tighter limits on shark fishing may be one factor behind such attacks.
Shark experts call the arguments of author Sean Paige "baloney". But they don't dispute statistics showing a clear increase in shark attacks since 1993, when the National Marine Fisheries Service began enforcing a quota on shark fishing.
"It's pretty simple," said Paige, author of a controversial report on shark regulations. "If you cut the number of sharks allowed to be caught, you increase the amount of sharks in the water. And when there's more sharks swimming around, there's going to be more shark attacks."
The latest strikes killed David Peltier, 10, of Richmond, Va., on Saturday while he was surfing with his dad off Virginia Beach. At a beach 130 miles south near Cape Hatteras, N.C., Sergi Zaloukaev, 28, was killed Monday and his girlfriend, Natalia Slobonskaya, 23, was badly bitten.
She lost her left foot and a huge chunk of her hip as well. She is listed in critical condition.
Since 1993, the fisheries service has gradually tightened its shark quota, to the ire of commercial fishermen who haul in shark primarily for shark fin soup, popular in China. Last year, the fisheries service established a moratorium for 19 species of shark, including the great white.
Government officials say there were responding to over-fishing, especially off the coast of Florida. The warm Atlantic waters are home to hundreds of types of sharks. Shark fin soup and shark-based medicines became popular in the late 1970s and since then Florida's shark population has plummeted by up to 75 percent, said Gordon Helm, a fisheries service spokesman.
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