OCEARCH responds to surfers' chum fears

by: Jenna Bourne Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Great white shark research vessel OCEARCH is responding to surfers’ fears about chum in the water.
Its expedition in Jacksonville kicked off last week.

You can see the vessel from the beach at Hanna Park, where surfers say they worry about chum working the sharks into a feeding frenzy.

OCEARCH said spring breakers should feel safe as they hit the surf.

Surfer Josh Rubens said he and his kids love tracking the great whites OCEARCH has tagged.

“I think what OCEARCH does it great,” said Rubens.

But while the ship is near his favorite beach, he’s keeping his kids out of the water.

“There is no communication with the community of what they’re doing here. Are they chumming? Are they not chumming? Do we need to stay out of the water? Do we not stay out of the water? Everything’s being kind of ‘hush-hush,’” said Rubens.

He’s not alone. Website “911 Surf Report” posted on its page Monday urging surfers to be cautious.

“These white sharks have been migrating through here for millions of years. It shows you how stealthy they are. It shows you that they don’t want anything to do with boats or people, or people would have been seeing them all the time,” said OCEARCH expedition leader and founder Chris Fischer.

Fischer said chum just attracts great whites that are already in the area to the boat.

“I think there’s a big misconception that people think you can chum a white shark in from vast distances. Those people simply don’t understand how the ocean works,” said Fischer.

“We put up warnings for jellyfish. We put up warnings for rip currents. There needs to be some type of communication,” said Rubens.

An OCEARCH spokesperson tells Action News Jax there has never been a shark attack on a human in the area where they’re researching and chumming.