And attack she did, and know she did little!
And I cite.
Evidence indicates sharks have the capacity to become conditioned.
As a result, shark ecotourism has the potential to create an association of humans with food, ending in increased attacks.
Have you seen this crap?
Sarah the student from Wellington has perused a random selection of irrelevant papers (and none of those that are relevant, see the links below!) - and now she thinks she knows something about something and has posted her opines on the university weblog site.
So there, for the umpteenth bloody time.
- There's no geographical correlation between Shark feeding and Shark strikes.
Re-read this. In brief and with maybe the exception of SA, the vast majority of Shark strikes occurs in locations where there are no Shark feeding operations (like specifically Western Australia!) - which is even more surprising if one considers that most of those dives have been established in locations that are known for their healthy Shark populations!
And even if there were some correlation, it certainly does not equate causation!
- Shark feeding appears unproblematic at the ecosystem level
All present research into those baited Shark dives appears to concur that those dives have little to no effect at large spatial and temporal scales. It appears pretty clear that far from becoming dependent on the handouts, those provisioned Sharks continue to fulfill their ecological roles and also continue to follow their normal life cycles as in e.g. mating, pupping and migrating.
But of course there are some big caveats.
- There are certainly effects at small spatial and temporal scales.
Shark feeding often aggregates the animals, and this can have local consequences. As an example, take the increased aggression of those Lemons in Moorea; or the observed competitive exclusion (and here!) of other Sharks in Fiji and possibly SA and TB; or those postulated local behavioral changes and marginally increased residency in Southern Australia.
- Conditioning via positive reinforcement does likely happen.
E.g., Sharks are certainly smart and it is absolutely plausible to assume that provisioned Sharks may have learned to associate the boat noise with a subsequent feeding opportunity, a fact that is being exploited by several operators - and if the food is being presented at the surface like in the case of GWS cage diving, it as equally plausible to assume that they could be popping up next to other boats in the area!
But "turning up" does not equate "attacking"!
- Location matters.
Many Shark dives have been being established where there are already Sharks, meaning that objectively speaking, the risk profile is unlikely to change - but perceptions matter and like in the case of population centers like, say, Cape Town or Playa, the diving activity and associated increased publicity of Sharks can lead to conflicts with the other local ocean users. Consequently, as a rule, the feeding locations need to be as remote as possible and should definitely not be established e.g. right in the middle of population centers or right in front of popular beaches etc.
- Feeding protocols.
Like I often state, it is often not about the what but about the how.
Shark provisioning creates its own risks, and those risks need to be managed - meaning that all protocols should be chosen in function of minimizing the impact on both the animals and the habitat, and on maximizing the safety for the participants but also the public. E.g., everybody will hopefully agree that creating humongous chum trails or dumping indiscriminate amounts of bait to create feeding frenzies is probably a bad idea. Or as another example, we here go to great lengths to condition the Bulls never to come to the surface, lest we get accused of endangering other aquatic recreationists.
In brief, we need to be in a position to demonstrate that we are always striving to conduct our dives in the most responsible way possible - but provided that (!) we we act responsibly, yours truly and every single Shark diving operator I've ever talked to have made the observation that the Sharks become positively tame, meaning that the risk of a bite is lower not higher!
And then, there's this.
- There are Shark strikes and Shark strikes.
Whereas Shark provisioning is certainly a dangerous undertaking, everybody in the industry agrees that the cause for bites during provisioned dives is either a) self defense, b) competition or c) mistakes - not predation! Exception - but the guy was certainly asking for it!
- And yes we certainly do condition the Sharks, and yes they learn, and this very fast indeed - but they learn to eat bait, not humans!
- And finally, Shark strikes are a human tragedy but a statistical non event.
They are so freakishly rare that they will always elude proper science; and by the same token, they will continue to happen irrespective of our efforts to prevent them.
These stupid allegations are likely to hound us til the end of time - but it's disheartening to see them parroted by a young academic that is obviously a Shark-lover!
To be continued no doubt!