Shark Feeding Dives...Yes or No

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jmcgilroy

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I just read an article in DAN's AlertDiver magazine regarding a shark feeding dive incident. That caused me to watch a few videos and read another few articles about these dives and dive operators. There were varying opinions from "it helps raise awareness" to "it's OK if done safely" to "it's foolish and causes a Pavlovian response in the sharks."

For the record, I'm against them (admittedly, I've never done one). I've seen the "learned behavior" in other fish, though. Grouper/snapper would be attracted to the sound of a spear point hitting rocks during a Lionfish cull. A Roatan DM said that Morey eel bites have increased after divers began feeding them the dead Lionfish, as well. There's no reason to believe that sharks won't be similarly "programmed" and this "increased awareness" will only have a negative effect.

Any thoughts?
 

Johnoly

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...the sound of a spear point hitting rocks
Any thoughts?
Why would you shoot a rock ?? You might be a bad aim.
 

Divin'Papaw

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I just read an article in DAN's AlertDiver magazine regarding a shark feeding dive incident. That caused me to watch a few videos and read another few articles about these dives and dive operators. There were varying opinions from "it helps raise awareness" to "it's OK if done safely" to "it's foolish and causes a Pavlovian response in the sharks."

For the record, I'm against them (admittedly, I've never done one). I've seen the "learned behavior" in other fish, though. Grouper/snapper would be attracted to the sound of a spear point hitting rocks during a Lionfish cull. A Roatan DM said that Morey eel bites have increased after divers began feeding them the dead Lionfish, as well. There's no reason to believe that sharks won't be similarly "programmed" and this "increased awareness" will only have a negative effect.

Any thoughts?

I have people I respect on both sides of this argument. Personally, I'm not a supporter and vote with my wallet ... meaning that I don't give business to the operators that practice it. With that said, I do dive on sites using other non-feeding charters that end up "benefiting" by the practice by increasing the shark density in a given location. I don't feel so strongly about it that I go out trying to change other's minds or pushing for the practice to be outlawed. However, I personally think it isn't a good idea and therefore choose not to participate. I leave others to make up their own minds.
 

drrich2

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My thoughts, and forum threads debating the practice, were wrapped into my trip report from going on 7 shark feed dives with Emerald Charters back in 2017.

Emerald Charters Trip Report 2017 - https://www.scubaboard.com/community/threads/emerald-dive-charters-trip-report.544497/

In a nutshell, I'm obviously not opposed. I aim for an open mind, considering the evidence that unfolds with specific species (e.g.: not assuming tiger sharks alter behavior the same way Caribbean reef sharks do), and especially not assuming the patterns that unfold will match stereotypes for land-based and land-water border-based unrelated species (e.g.: alligators and bears get cited a lot).

Be mindful it's not only shark feed diving for tourists that arouses a response from sharks; quite a number of spearfishermen have reported interactions with sharks. And we recreational divers impact the behavior of a range of animals in the course of regular dives.

One important point: in terms of risk to participants, from what I've read on ScubaBoard, the professional shark feeder is in a different risk category from the customer divers hanging back observing the action. I take this to be a personal decision by competent adults.
 

Skeptic14

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So timely... as a different thread had be just thinking about this.

I've not done a feeding dive and I don't think I ever will, mostly because the idea that with sharks it not creating a learned behavior like with other predators seems purely based on lack of evidence vs positive evidence.

I've dived a site that is apparently used for feeding in the Keys, and the behavior of the moray and nurse sharks is absolutely different on that site than others.

But perhaps the main reason that despite the opportunity for some great photography (my main scuba activity) by doing tiger beach as example I wont every do it was after reading a thorough description/review by someone who has done it 5+ times.

I have to chuckle at some of the comments made here and elsewhere of how playful / fun / personified tiger sharks are vs the operators very strict rules on counting/watching and always being fully aware of every tiger in the vicinity and not letting it sneak up on you.... huh wonder why.
 

rmorgan

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I've dived a site that is apparently used for feeding in the Keys, and the behavior of the moray and nurse sharks is absolutely different on that site than others.
We had this experience in St Croix last year. The DMs speared lionfish and left them on rocks and the blacktips circled in for them. Usually fairly solitary in our experience, there were 2-3 at a time, and never far from the divers. Different strokes, I guess, but in addition to the question of changing animal behavior, I didn‘t much like being associated with dinner.
 

Rob9876

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Over time I've decided that I would generally rather not participate in feeding dives -- especially those where a scuba diver is directly (by hand, pole, etc.) feeding the sharks. I don't like the idea of sharks associating divers with being fed.

When we were on a liveaboard in the Bahamas, I did participate in one dive where the divers all went down to the sand to observe from a distance and then a chum-sicle was lowered from above, so divers were not directly feeding the sharks. I might consider doing a dive like that again, but I'm not likely to seek one out.

Earlier this year we were diving with a dive op in St. Croix who speared lionfish and swam around with the lionfish on the spear tip for a while purposely until reef sharks started circling us closer and closer. I'm generally comfortable around reef sharks, since they are usually fairly shy, but this divemaster's actions were definitely causing these sharks to act more aggressively. Sure, they're not great whites, but getting bitten would certainly put a damper on your vacation at the least. Reef sharks are fairly common and I'd hate to get to the point that every time I saw a reef shark I was on edge rather than just enjoying the chance to watch them.

I guess that leads me to the crux of my thoughts on the issue: I dive mainly to observe the natural world, and there's not much natural about hand-feeding sharks.
 
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jmcgilroy

jmcgilroy

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(e.g.: not assuming tiger sharks alter behavior the same way Caribbean reef sharks do), and especially not assuming the patterns that unfold will match stereotypes for land-based and land-water border-based unrelated species (e.g.: alligators and bears get cited a lot).
Good point. I would think the "Don't feed the Bears" signs that we see were put there for a reason...who knows if it transfers to other species. I liked Rob9876's statement about diving to see the natural world...I'm right there with you.
 

drrich2

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Sure, they're not great whites, but getting bitten would certainly put a damper on your vacation at the least.
Yes, reef sharks have the potential to become a serious issue for a lion fish hunter - see DAN's Alert Diver article, A Shark Tale. From the article:

"Art had just speared two lionfish and was heading back to the boat when he attracted the attention of a couple of 3- to 5-foot-long Caribbean reef sharks. They were drawn by the fish blood and dying movements of the fish on the end of the spear. One shark swam up under Art as he made his way toward the boat. As the shark opened its mouth and headed toward the fish, he encountered Art’s left hand instead. Art says it was sudden, unexpected and painful. He tucked his fist under his right armpit and continued to the boat, where he handed up his fish. Sue and Paula then helped him aboard, applied a pressure dressing and helped him remove his suit. There was a lot of blood. Art doesn’t remember any of this."

So far I have never attempted to spear lion fish. If I did consider it, I'd want to know about the likelihood of encountering sharks in the region I planned to do it, and what species were most likely to be seen.
 

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