"We were shocked to see the video of one our shark-feeders punching nurse sharks during the feed," said the centre's founder Stuart Cove in a statement.

"The guide has been released the very same day from all duties, and was dismissed with immediate effect. He himself was shocked by how much he lost control, and was very apologetic about the incident." 

Nicholas Jones, visiting the New Providence dive-centre from the Cayman Islands, initially posted the video on his Instagram page and noted: “Awesome experience but I don’t think it was really necessary for the guide to beat the s--- out of the nurse sharks.”

The guide can be seen in the video making an angry gesture when a group of nurse sharks try to pull fish from the bait-box, which Jones later stated he had failed to close properly on two occasions. 

The feeds are primarily intended to attract Caribbean reef sharks, but nurse sharks and other fish usually turn up in the hope of picking up scraps.

The guide punched one shark twice and pushed it away before pulling another away by the fin and another by the tail. After the dive, according to Jones, he was questioned about his actions and responded that the sharks needed to show respect. The video went on to be widely shared.

"Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas has always and will continue to stand for shark-conservation, protection of sharks and the respectful treatment of sharks," said Cove.

"We have been closely involved in shutting down the terrible practice of finning and turning the Bahamas into a shark sanctuary, an initiative that has been adopted by several nations afterwards.

"The entire management team of Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to staff or guests offending marine life."

Cove said that the issue had been discussed with all the shark-feeders, and the strict rules applying to shark-feeds reiterated.

"We will continue with the programme, as it is an excellent tool to demonstrate the beauty, elegance and importance of these animals".

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