Recent Shark Attacks and Wildfires Show Mother Nature Doesn’t Always Know Best

Washington, DC, September 5, 2001—“The idea that Mother Nature always has our best interests in mind has suffered a bit lately.  That viewpoint, very often touted by so-called ‘environmentalists,’ has resulted in policies that have instead exacerbated natural risks and led to tragedies.  All one has to do is look at the human toll, demonstrated so vividly by the recent shark attacks and wildfires, to understand the necessity of rethinking our current policies of allowing nature to do its thing,” says Fred L. Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />


Smith is referring to government policies which have not only restricted shark fishing but also curtailed much of the bait fishing off Florida’s coasts, leading ultimately to an increase in not only sharks but the fish that draw sharks closer to shore to feed.  Likewise, says Smith, U.S. Forest Service policies supporting fire suppression have allowed massive buildups of flammable material, making our government-forests virtual tinderboxes, resulting in wildfires that, like last year, are now engulfing much of the Western United States.


Supporting Smith’s ideas is Dr. Robert H. Nelson, senior fellow of CEI and author of A Burning Issue: A Case for Abolishing the U.S. Forest Service.  Nelson, who spent almost 20 years with the Interior Department and is a well-regarded land management expert, testified to Congress last year that 60 percent of all Forest Service lands nationwide, involving 118 million acres, are beyond acceptable levels of “fuel stocking densities,” the result of misguided past policies of the Forest Service that support fire suppression.  Nelson believes controlled fires are risky, as shown by “the fiasco at Los Alamos,” and that mechanical thinning is often the best alternative.  Ultimately, Nelson wants to see management for our national forests shifted from the federal to state level.


Sean Paige, a CEI adjunct fellow, believes that while there has been plenty of speculation about the recent shark attacks, the most plausible explanation is the action taken by the state of Florida and the National Marine Fisheries Services since the early 1990s.  “What most people don’t know is that since that time they have been working aggressively to increase shark populations, mainly by regulating the U.S. commercial shark industry into near extinction,” he reports.  “In 1995, Florida’s gill net ban also effectively ended mullet fishing in state waters, leading to a likely explosion in this baitfish that is luring sharks closer to shore,” Paige adds.



CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.


To interview Fred Smith, Dr. Robert Nelson, or Sean Paige, contact Jody Clarke or Judy Kent at 202-331-1010.