This partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, August 14, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House.
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HANNITY: Also coming up tonight on HANNITY & COLMES, would you give up having children if it would save the Earth? You'll meet somebody that wants you to do that.
But, first, "Behind the Headlines" for this Tuesday, are government regulations causing more shark attacks?
The number of shark attacks has been on the rise, including the recent horrible story of the 8-year-old nearly killed in Pensacola, Florida. Is it possible that government protection of sharks leads more of them in the water and, therefore, more likely to attack?
We're joined from Washington by Sean Paige of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
You know, I've read your piece in -- in full, I've got to tell you, on "National Review Online." I've got -- I think you made a compelling case that that's a fact. Why don't you explain that for those that didn't have a chance to read it?
SEAN PAIGE, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Well, I don't know about fact. I hope I made a compelling case. That's my job.
I was studying fisheries regulations, and I started looking at the shark fishery just in the course of my work, and I noticed that after 1993 -- that's when the federal government became involved in regulating the -- not only the federal shark fishery but also in a program to actually increase the number of sharks -- that these numbers started jumping up higher and higher consistently.
In 1993, for instance, in Florida, which has the highest proportion of shark attacks in the country, there were eight -- there were shark attacks in 1993. Last year, that number had jumped up to 34, a fourfold increase.
PAINE: Nationally -- nationally, the numbers have gone up, too, and -- and so I started looking at the...
HANNITY: All right. I -- I don't mean to interrupt you. I want to...
HANNITY: I want to make sure we focus in on this, Sean, because what -- what you're saying is government regulations since 1993 result in less sharks being fished in the waters, especially in Florida, you talk about, where there's even more regulations, and we see a dramatic increase since the regulations went into place in the shark attacks because there are more sharks in the water, is what -- which would then...
PAINE: That -- that's a fact, that's -- that's on purpose. The government since 1993 has been involved in an active program to increase the number of sharks based on the -- the somewhat questionable premise that they're in a very steep decline and headed towards extinction. In fact...
PAINE: Yeah. Go ahead.
HANNITY: Yeah. Well, you know something? You also raised -- very early in your piece, you raised, for example, if you talk about bear attacks, mountain lions chasing joggers, reintroduced wolf packs raiding ranches, alligators menacing golfers, coyotes snatching house pets. You know what?
I've read one of these stories here, and they are -- and a lot of it has to do with the regulations that were put in place by the government, but we don't think of it in that way, do we?
PAINE: Well, most of your viewers don't know that the government regulates the shark fishery and that it's an active program to increase the numbers, no.
This may be one federal program that's actually working, and it's gotten measurable results because every year the government has reduced the amount of sharks that can be caught. That leaves more sharks in the water.
State -- state law in Florida has also created shark sanctuaries within state waters by basically banning all commercial fishing and severely restricting recreational fishing, so...
SKINNER: ... let me ask you this. Let me talk about the absolute numbers that you used in your piece. You're -- I think you said that we went from eight to 34, and whatever you -- it's a fourfold increase.
More people slip on banana peels, hit their head and die every year in the United States than that, than 34 people. You know,I mean, the chance of getting hit by electrocution -- or lightning -- I mean,
there's so many -- the odds are so...
SKINNER: ... against being eaten by a shark, and -- and the shark population has declined in the Atlantic and in the Pacific by 85 percent.
PAINE: That -- that is...
SKINNER: Shark soup -- shark fin soup has become pop -- very popular. Shark cartilage. Are you saying that the government doesn't have a responsibility to try to protect endangered species?
PAINE: Of course it does. The question is: Is this particular species endangered?
The most recent federal assessment of the shark stock sizes was done at a workshop in 1999. That assessment has been thrown out by a federal judge. If you read his judgment on that, it's scathing. It basically says there's no real data, there's no historical data to go by, the modeling could be flawed, and -- and the science underpinnings...
SKINNER: Who did that? Is it the National Marine Fisheries...
SKINNER: ... because they're the ones who are reporting an 85-percent decline.
PAINE: Yeah, exactly.
But -- look, scientists aren't objective. A lot of the experts and the scientists within National Marine Fisheries Service are advocates, and -- and the National Marine Fisheries Service, as my piece points out, is a political organization.
The people on top make the decision, "We're going to regulate sharks because we're getting pressure from advocacy groups that contend that they're in decline." The scientists who get aboard on that program are the ones that are kept in advance.
The one side -- well, the scientists...
SKINNER: OK. We'll never -- we'll never debate this -- you could use numbers to justify any position.
Let me -- let me go the next step then. Let's assume you're right that there are more shark attacks. How do you connect the fact that there are more -- that there are more sharks with more shark attacks.
I'm a diver, and I -- I know what it is. I know what sharks are about. They don't eat people. They don't like people. They're afraid of people. You are instructed to do just your own thing, and they swim away.
Why are you thinking that the absolute number of sharks -- as that goes up, the number of attacks go up?
PAINE: Well, I mean, the -- one thing we have to look at is the regulations in Florida State waters.
For instance, one reason sharks may be coming -- first of all, in Florida, you have a shark sanctuary in state waters. That extends three miles out in the Atlantic and nine miles into the Gulf.
The other thing is Florida in 1995 passed a gill-net ban in Floridian waters. That stopped any fishermen from catching mullet. Mullet are a favorite food of all sharks. You may have actually too many fish -- too many bait fish in close to shore. That's drawing the sharks in closer.
HANNITY: Hey, Sean, great piece in "National Review Online." Thank you for joining us.
PAINE: Well, thank you.
HANNITY: We'll let people read it for themselves. They can decide.
And when we come back, you'll meet a man who thinks -- I'm not kidding -- the best thing for the planet will be the complete extinction of people, all of us, liberals and Democrats and Republicans and conservatives. Straight ahead, you'll meet this person. Coming up.
SKINNER: Stay tuned for more HANNITY & COLMES. Coming up, why does one man think human beings should die out for the sake of our environment? We'll talk to him next. We'll be back in two minutes.
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