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This is prompted by an advertising e-mail I got from Aquacat and Blackbeard dive cruises in the Caribbean.

I was reading the ad, and felt tempted as I am now dreaming of next year's big holiday now that Canada has been and gone.

Aquacat was far too dear for my wallet so I moved onto Blackbeard cruises and was almost about to request more info when I saw their list of "bullet points".  They listed shark feeding as an activity.

Now I immediately e-mailed them to tell them I that was unsubscribing from their mailing list and detailed why.  I also told them I would discourage others from booking with them due to this featuring on their itinerary.  They politely e-mailed back saying they respected my views
- bless 'em!

However, following on from "when goody bags go bad", what do you guys think of shark feeds, or indeed fish feeding in general?

Have you been on a shark feed, would you participate in one, or do you agree that we shouldn't interfere with their natural feeding patterns?

How about boiled eggs to Napolean Wrasse or potato cod?

Urchins to ballan wrasse?

Let's kick off.....


Lou
 

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First of all - feeding the odd scrap/egg etc. to local fishes on a dive doesn't seem very important to me in an ecological context - but I must stress that this is only my (probably worthless) opinion and is based in no way on experience,expertise, foreknowledge and certainly has nothing to do with any degree I might have. It's just what I reckon, as a punter.

As far as shark feeds as a commercial/tourist enterprise I think that on balance it's a good thing from the point of view of sharks - but again of piffling importance in an ecological sense. Anything which makes sharks worth more to local people alive than they are worth dead is a good thing. Better feed them than fish them - and better to raise public  interest than to ignore them for the commercial fishers to catch. And if it leads to the odd diver/surfer getting eaten then thats good too as it enhances the ruffty tuffty image of diving and might help me get girls.
(again all pure speculation and not based in any way on reality, probably, especially the bit about girls)
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>Lou

I have to agree with on this one, I don't think operators should do any type of shark feeding.  I am not aware that Potato Cod eat hard boiled eggs normally.

I dived the GBR last year from a boat called Underwater Explorer they do research trips and we did the Shark and Nautilus week, we dived Osprey reef.  The boat is involved with tagging and monitoring shark activity in the area, so for this purpose they do take a bait box down to a specific area to bring in the sharks so they can be counted.  Some of the sharks are tagged and this provides information for James Cook Uni, there is also a Marine Biologist on board.  Although you may also think this is not acceptable none of the sharks got any of the food (fish heads etc)  we also had Potato Cods charging in.  My friend and I got involved in Shark Identification on the dive and then we added our observations to thier research.  

We also did a dive at Cod Hole, we didn't take anything with us and we still had the Cods coming to investigate us as they now expect some food.  

I would not dive with any operator which is involved with fish / shark feeding.  I have seem TV programmes of the operator in caribbean where shark feeding is the norm.  We saw lots of sharks in the Maldives and have seen some in the Red Sea and I got to see them just because they wanted to be there, not encouraged to be.

Fiona
 

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One problem with feeding hard boiled eggs to Napoleon Wrasse is that tho they love 'em, they're not actually nutritionally good for them, but bulk out the stomach so the wrasse doesnt continue looking for better food. I recently read of a dead napoleon that was dissected and discovered to have a stomach full of undigested eggs and effectively died of malnutrition.

Sharks I just worry about the wisdom of encouraging large predators to associate humans with food in any form.
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Lou @ Oct. 22 2003,12:13)]How about boiled eggs to Napolean Wrasse or potato cod?
no! no! no! no! no! no! no! no! no!!!!!!

I don't know who started this trend but these fish don't have the metabolic capability to digest eggs, consequently the eggs cause discomfort, pain or death depending on how many they've eaten.

Tropical fish ecology was/is one of the mainstays of my old department, and this info comes from researchers who have dissected tropical fishes on a regular basis.

As for shark feeding, I think it's very much dependant on how it's done, but I don't like to see wild animals becoming habituated to humans. I presume most divers know the story of "George" a large Red Sea grouper who bacame very habituated to being fed by divers over a number of years, then was speared by some Italian diver with a speargun...  
 

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I think Steve has touched on one of the key issues for me...habituation to humans.

Feeding wild animals is one of the fuzzy areas where doing it once may be ok, but having a one animal, or a group of animals (such as the sharks in areas with regular feeds) become almost so accustomed to human intervention that they alter their natural behaviour and seek out humans for food, or fail to hunt or feed normally is unacceptable, in my opinion.

Feeding them something which is outside oftheir natural diet is again something I would not be happy with.

So where I might waft a bit of sand to see if there is something there that the curious wrasse staring at me might want to eat I would never take food, or participate in an event where food was involved to "assure" a sighting.

I would much rather, as FionaB said, get the priviledge of seeing a shark on its terms as opposed to because it has been effectively trained to come and feed at a fast food stall with divers sat around watching.  I can do that at an aquarium,

Lou
 

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Shark feeding: I'm basically agin it. Anything that changes animals' behaviour in an unnatural direction must be bad. I'm sure there are better ways of making people (both divers and others) appreciate what wonderful creatures sharks are and if you want to see sharks I can suggest several places where sightings are more or less gauranteed without feeding them.
Feeding eggs to Napoleonfish: Steve is dead right. NO, NO, NO, NO! The first time I went to the Red Sea (1989) we DID feed hard-boiled eggs to the Napoleon fish. Nobody understood then that it was harmful. There have been several Georges at Sharm over the years, probably because divers killed them (one even got harpooned!!), mainly by feeding therm hard-boiled eggs.
Feeding other fish: In principle no, because of the risk of influencing their behaviour (see above), but I don't see much harm in cracking a mussel and feeding the wrasse at sites that are seldom visited by divers and the wrasse are unlikely to become habituated. From a purely ethical point of view,  I would have to say no but, being a hypocritical barsteward, I sometimes do it.
 

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I'm pretty muich against it, but I agree with Jason - anything that makes people want sharks to be alive and swimming about rather than dead on the bottom with no fins isn't all bad.

I'd love to see a basking shark, but the awkward sods only eat plankton, so we actually have to go LOOKING for them rather than making them come to us. How inconsiderate can you get?
 

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Well I do have mixed feelings on this subject.

On the one hand certain activities such as shark feeding could be considered a benefit.  For instance I believe in the case of the Bahamas they have produced figures that indicate the value of a live shark to the tourism trade far outweighs the value of a dead shark.

Also in the case of baiting great whites off SA to bring them alongside boats and cages (baiting not feeding) did in my experience prove a real eye opener for me and trashed many misconceptions I had of great whites.   In this instance they were very wary and inquisitive, yet much of the footage I had seen up to this point showed great whites going full tilt for the bait (Which they would but only after much circling and investigating).

I do think it is important to promote the positive side and weigh up the positives over the negatives and remove these preconceptions of mindless killing machines but we also need to consider what the impact is on their natural behaviour.  

I had a chat with the crew that took us out from South Africa and it was quite enlightening hearing their views.  What was even more enlightening however was the conversation amongst all the guests on the boat who viewed the whole experience extremely positively and enlightening.

I think overall if we look at how sharks were portrayed 2 decades ago both by the general public and the media, compared to now, there has been a dramatic change and up close encounters, more divers in the water and activities such as shark feeding have played their part.

I guess the question now is "Should these activities continue,  could they still provide additional benefit to the image of sharks"

Daz
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>Daz, you raised an interesting point. If shark feeding brings in money to local economy and raises shark awareness to otherwise ignorant people that is a positivie point. I don't know if increased shark tourism reduces the number of sharks being killed by sports fisherman / normal fisherman. Still I wish there wasn't any shark feeding at all, there must be a better way to educate people about sharks to keep that 'Jaws' image out of their mind.
 

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<font color='#000F22'>I've only got a very basic view on this:-

I don't want anything with bigger teeth than me to associate me with food.

Nuff said.
 

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Daz

I would definitely count baiting in a differetn category to feeding.  If the shark isn't learning to associate the activity with an easy meal then in theory you are less likely to be altering his/her natural behaviour.  That seems borne out by your description of the encounter.  

The balance of value alive vs dead is an interesting point, but basically the operators are out to make an easy buck from punters who want "guaranteed" action.  A by-product of our instant gratification society.  Create a set of divers who want to see sharks, and will come to the area to see sharks, but who won't support shark feeds and the value tot he locals is still there, it is just the expectation of the divers that has to change.



Lou
 

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Frankly, I doubt if shark-feeding as a way of increasing (a few) people's appreciation of sharks is of any importance whatsoever in the shark conservation context. We still kill somewhere between a hundred and two hundred million sharks every year. I suspect the conservation argument is just a pretext for the divecentres to continue a very profitable activity.
 

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<font color='#000080'>There are a few Marine Biologists posting on this site, but I am certainly not one of them. I cannot comment on the basis of scientificaly proven theory and only do so on basic gut instinct.

In my view our planet's ecology is such a complex system that we will never have any hope of fully understanding it. Until we understand it we're never going to know how our interference with it is going to effect it. The only safe way to proceed is not to interfere with it at all until you know exactly what you are doing.

From that general premise I would be against shark feeds. It effects their natural behaviour and we don't know what the result of that could be.

I would like shark encounters to be so rare that a natural encounter was something to be prized and cherished and worth making the effort for. Like Lou says, we are now in a quick gratification world where anything can be had for enough dollars and we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

I would love to see sharks, but I'll wait until one happens to come along. I'll appreciate it more. We have to try and keep some wonder in life.

However, a few have raised the point about how the ecotourism may at least be having some effect on reducing the frightening rate of shark kills. It does, at least to some commumities, make sharks more valuable alive than dead, which can't be entirely a bad think.

So, mixed feelings on wheteher it should be allowed, but I certainly won't be taking part.
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Mark Davies @ Oct. 22 2003,15:22)]I would like shark encounters to be so rare that a natural encounter was something to be prized and cherished and worth making the effort for. Like Lou says, we are now in a quick gratification world where anything can be had for enough dollars and we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

I would love to see sharks, but I'll wait until one happens to come along. I'll appreciate it more. We have to try and keep some wonder in life.
Mark, shark encounters don't have to be rare, even without feeding. If you go to the right place at the right time, you WILL see sharks. Pesonally, I'm all for "instant gratification" in this context. I love seeing sharks and do NOT want encounters to be rare. I'm still against feeding them, though.
PS As I said on the other thread, a good rule in all ecological contexts is: If you don't know the answer, err on the side of safety, so I agree with you there.
 

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Okay, in the interests of fairness, here is the response i have had from Blackbeard Tours....hot off the press....
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]
Hi Louise,

I appreciate your concerns and I generally agree with you, but not in this case.   The behavior change is minimal and very localized.   The sharks that are fed in the Bahamas are largely sedentary, so the 5 shark dives attrack sharks from only 80 sq miles out of the 92,000 miles of banks that the Bahamas has.   Shark scientists have been studying the sharks for over 10 years at these sites and have found no definate negative effect to sharks.    But in any negative effect to sharks is more then offset by the great positive effect on public opinion about sharks.   Until shark dives the public had a very negative opinion on sharks, but after making a shark dive this opinion is completely reversed.   With shark populations down over 80%  and in the case of some pelagic sharks much higher.  Some of these pelagic sharks are rapidily reaching the point where reproduction will be almost impossible.

Bruce Purdy
So he is of the view that the number of divers who see a shark during a shark feed, who wouldn't have seen a shark anyway, affect public opinion so strongly that it is worth it.
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Mark Davies @ Oct. 22 2003,14:22)]
[b said:
Quote[/b] ]From that general premise I would be against shark feeds. It effects their natural behaviour and we don't know what the result of that could be.
Playing devils advocate here,  but much of what we do MAY have an effect on their natural behaviour.  For instance all of the safari boats going out to Brothers Islands or Elphinstone in the Red Sea could affect their natural behaviour.  Or even the damage to the reefs around Sharm.

[b said:
Quote[/b] ]I would like shark encounters to be so rare that a natural encounter was something to be prized and cherished and worth making the effort for. Like Lou says, we are now in a quick gratification world where anything can be had for enough dollars and we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
Shark encounters with some species may indeed become a rare occurence, especially if shark finning continues.  


There are many, many unknowns,  personally I do not agree with shark feeding.  I do think it has been of benefit in the past to improve the sharks image but I do not believe that stopping it now would be detrimental to their cause.  

However while it is allowed to continue I would not discourage anyone from doing it if that was what they wanted to do.  Hopefully they would get something of benefit out of it and promote sharks in a positive light after the experience.

Daz
 

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No, never and once more NO! Feeding anything that changes or alters an animals natural behaviour is bad for the fish, Please note though I am NOT a tree hugger - I really can't be when I was one of the team that engineered the new gas guzzling (to coin an American phrase) Jaguar XJ.

On the last trip to the Red Sea we witnessed one of the cooks feeding a Napoleon and discreetly told him the error of his ways and he seemed genuinely shocked that the egg could kill the animal. This was the same Napoleon that attacked one of the other divers whilst she was taking a video, which is vert dramatic BTW, as it thought her camera was food.

Baiting though is slightly different as long as the fish can't get to the bait it should remain a happy and inquisative chap.

Sorry if I've gotten on my soapbox again but I do like to talk, okay, rant.
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (Lou @ Oct. 22 2003,16:27)]Shark scientists have been studying the sharks for over 10 years at these sites and have found no definate negative effect to sharks.    

Bruce Purdy
Off topic but here's yet another example of someone who can't spell definite. I see it misspelt time and time again on this and "the other" forum. How come it's so difficult? It's DEFINITE!!!!
There! I feel much better after that little rant.  
 

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Personally, I don't have a problem with shark feeding as long as it's a limited supply at limited times.

The most damaging act involved in changing shark behaviour is fishing i.e. it stops all behaviour.

If you've ever eaten 'fish' in a restaurant in Egypt or Australia, unless the type is specified there's a very good chance you are eating shark...
 
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