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|By: LeRoy French
13 February 2009
This activity called ‘shark feeding’ has been a controversial subject for a
number of years. Is it good or bad? Does it harm the ecosystem? How
does it affect the sharks? We will address these questions in this article.
First of all let me qualify myself as a person who has the authority able to
answer these questions. I have been on many shark feeding excursions
from the Caribbean Reef shark to the Great White Shark. I have filmed
these animals up close and personal and can attest to the fact that I have
had a close encounter with a Great White a number of years ago.
Here in St. Maarten and the Caribbean the most common shark for this
activity is the Caribbean Reef Shark. This is the most abundant shark in
the area and often participates in feeding programs. This shark is not
known to be aggressive toward humans. I have studied these shark
feeding programs in different parts of the world and can safely say that it is
neither good or bad depending on your point of view. There is concern
that sharks become dependent on these hand outs and may associate
food with humans. Proponents argue that sharks are taking advantage of a
free lunch and after the feeding is over go back to feeding on whatever
they fed on before. This is very true as I have seen at the end of the
program the sharks disperse in all directions. However, like all animals who
are used to being fed at a certain time in a certain place, once again the
Pavlovian response comes into effect. The shark hears the boat returning
daily to the same area and naturally he comes to see if he is going to be
fed. There is no proof that the small amount of sharks being fed around
the world are responsible for any bathers being attacked. It is important to
know that individual sharks receive very little food, therefore they do not
rely on humans for providing their meals. Because of this the ecosystem
is left intact.
The behavior of the shark is changed very little. Regularly fed sharks will
appear on queue as we mentioned when they here the boat
approaching, but after receiving a few scraps return to their normal
Shark feeding operators in a small way are protecting the sharks and the
ecosystem at the same time. Its not compulsory to feed sharks to protect
them but who else will champion these animals?
Shark feeding programs also allow photographers to get images to
educate the public in shark behavior and dispel the fears that this is the
creature of a nightmare.
In my opinion, responsibly conducted shark feeds, complete with good
shark biology and conservation message are educational and reasonably
safe. All of the feeds that I have been on have been located away from
populated areas and beaches. The only time the shark is threatened is
when fisherman target a shark feeding area. Then the entire population can
be wiped out.
“SAVE THE SHARKS”!
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