TAMPA (FOX 13) - Since 1975, when the movie Jaws hit theaters, summer beachgoers are no longer scared to get into the water due to sharks. Many people are seeking out the predators!
A study by Oceana in 2017 found that shark diving is becoming big business in Florida, generating about $221 million a year and nearly 3,800 full-time jobs.
"When you're out in the wild, you might see a shark, but when you're here at the Florida Aquarium, you will see sharks," said Eric Hovland, an associate curator who dives into the water with the toothy creatures almost daily.
Trained divers at the aquarium accompany people into a half a million gallon taking to either swim alongside or dive beneath sharks.
"We take people and sharks from fear to fascination. We all fear what we misunderstand," said Hovland.
Swimmers are able to roam the water's surface. They often come within feet of sharks.
"[Sharks] see us, smell us, know we're coming way before we ever see them, and they react accordingly," explained Hovland.
Adventure seekers can also venture out into the ocean with companies like Florida Shark Diving in Jupiter.
With the help of bait fish, sharks are lured closer to divers in order to give them an up-close view and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Professional divers hope the exposure and economic incentive will help protect the animals.
Sharks are currently hunted and killed in the wild for their fins to make things like shark fin soup, a delicacy selling for $100 a bowl.
Shark diving teaches people to have a greater appreciation and respect for sharks.
To learn more about the Florida Aquarium's shark experiences, visit https://www.flaquarium.org/swimanddive
For information on Florida Shark Diving, visit http://floridasharkdiving.com/