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HOLLYWOOD — It is an all-American story of a group of young men in Hawaii and their passion for diving.
But while they were diving, the nation was in the midst of a tragic series of shark attacks that killed more than 200 people, leaving many wondering whether they could really do it again.
Now, the same question looms over the nation as it grapples with the worst-ever wave of shark fatalities.
While the United States remains one of the most shark-friendly countries in the world, some experts worry that more and more American tourists may be turning to scuba dives to escape the constant threat of the animal.
“It’s a terrible thing to think about,” said Dr. Jeffrey Witte, a professor of oceanography at the University of California, Davis.
“There is a huge, huge population of American tourists that come to Hawaii for a lot of reasons, but it is a very special place, and it’s an incredibly popular destination for a number of reasons.”
So many of them go for the beauty of the water, for the atmosphere, for just being close to nature.
“So, they’re diverter, but the sharks are going to be eating the tourists.””
They’re diverting the money that’s being spent to keep our beaches and our parks safe, and the only reason that money is being used is because there are a number who are not going to go to a beach,” said Witte.
“So, they’re diverter, but the sharks are going to be eating the tourists.”
The problem is particularly acute in Hawaii.
As many as 200 people have died from shark attacks on the island since 1980, according to a new study.
The majority of those deaths have been blamed on the state’s notoriously aggressive and unpredictable reef sharks, which are often far bigger and faster than their cousins in California and other parts of the world.
Some scientists say that the state should adopt shark-safe regulations.
But experts say the current laws are not sufficiently strict and could discourage people from participating in diving activities.
Some American tourism operators have also criticized the government for not doing enough to ensure safety.
And as a result, the number of shark sightings in Hawaii has doubled since 2015, according a recent report by the California-based Ocean Conservancy.
The recent spate of attacks has prompted Hawaii Gov.
David Ige to issue a new executive order that requires that all dive shops in the state be required to post signage warning tourists to be mindful when entering the water.
The order also requires those working in the water to wear protective gear, and requires all watercraft to have shark deterrent devices on board.
“We need to get shark-proof everywhere, because there is no safe way to go anywhere in the ocean,” said Ige.
“The danger to the public is real.”
The new law also requires that businesses be licensed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and that any businesses operating in the area of the Hawaiian Islands that sell food, beverages, tobacco or other recreational goods must register with the agency.
“The governor is saying that we’re going to put in place the kind of regulations that will actually deter sharks,” said James P. McBride, executive director of the Hawaii Diving Association.
“It will deter sharks from being out there.
But he’s missing the point.”
McBride said there are still some areas of the state that are more shark-infested than others.
“But we are starting to see an increase, so it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter where,” he said.
McBride and other experts agree that it is imperative that the federal government steps up to take on this crisis, which has devastated tourism in the Pacific and caused millions of dollars in damage.
“There are a lot more sharks in the Great Barrier Reef than there are in the Hawaiian islands, and so I think the federal Government has a role to play, because the Great Brougham is not protected by any kind of law,” said McBride.
“I think it’s imperative that we have the federal level involved in protecting our Great Barrier reef.”
But there are some who are arguing that the only way to stem the tide of shark deaths is to drastically increase shark protection.
“If we don’t do something, there will be more deaths,” said Robert K. White, an attorney and author of the new book “The Shark Mindset.”
White argues that the shark is a symbiotic creature that relies on us for its survival.
“Every shark has a life-sustaining mechanism,” he told ABC News.
“You can’t have a shark without a human.”