Friday, June 22, 2018

You Are What You Eat - Paper!

Our Whitetip Reefies - happy, well fed and healthy!

And I cite,
The suite of studies available for this site is likely the most comprehensive body of work to date comparing the impacts of tourism on a predator species' behaviour and fitness with conservation and economic benefits.
The various studies address a range of potential issues (e.g. residency, habitat use, consumption of bait, energetic value of bait and diet) and provide a good example of how site-specific information, obtained from multiple methods, can contribute for an effective, evidence- based, management of the predator tourism industry.

Similar multi-methods approaches can be applied to other aquatic and terrestrial wildlife tourism species/operations, to move beyond our current understanding of tourism-driven behavioural and ecological changes, and provide a more holistic understanding of the effects of provisioning on the health and fitness of the target species.
Indeed - and we're mighty proud! :)
And here comes the latest, but by no means last paper investigating the effects of what we do!

I must say that I'm really happy.
This time, we've looked at the consequences of feeding non-resident Sharks, i.e. our Bull Sharks vs feeding much more resident ones, i.e. our Whitetip Reefies.
As a backdrop, keep in mind that we don't merely tease our Sharks like the GWS people do: our Sharks have been fed approx 1 ton of Tuna heads per week (!) for more than 20 years, meaning that they may well be the most, and I may add, best fed tourism Sharks on the planet - and not only that: our research has also shown that far from being junk, those Tuna heads are also highly nutritious!

And with that in mind, the results are simply spectacular.
Stable isotope analysis reveals that there is no evidence of bait incorporation by Bull Sharks; and even for some of the much more resident Whitetip Reefies, the results suggest a mere 8–22% importance of bait, this based on individual preferences - or as the paper states,
Results from the present study, particularly when combined with information from previous studies at this feeding site (Brunnschweiler et al., 2010, 2014;Brunnschweiler and Baensch, 2011; Brunnschweiler and Barnett, 2013;Brunnschweiler et al., 2017), suggest that current levels of provisioning lead to no detrimental long-term impacts on the behaviour or diet (and probably health) of sharks at the Shark Reef Marine Reserve site.
In brief, our feeding does certainly not harm our Bulls - and it equally does not harm the environment as they continue to fulfill their ecological role by quasi exclusively relying on their normal prey.
And when it comes to the Whitetip Reefies, we are actually presently investigating whether instead of feeding them too much, we may actually be feeding too little like what has been shown at Osprey Reef!
And not only that!
This is a strong indications that all other global Shark feeds that feed less, less frequently and have done so for a shorter period of time are likely to be unproblematic, too!

Long story short?
Time after time after time again all the evidence points to the fact that the reservations against Shark tourism in general and Shark feeding in particular are largely unfounded and that in the big scheme of things, far from posing a problem, we are one of the safest and most responsible ecotourism activities and as such, very much a part of the solution!

So well done team - this is just awesome!
My particular gratitude goes to Kátya for being so proficient and rigorous in her analysis, and for never losing her faith and her charm despite of the challenges of essentially working pro bono whilst raising a family, and of having to weather a grueling peer review process.
Thank you!

And our detractors?
Ultimately, they cannot be reformed and will surely continue to come up with ever new unsubstantiated hypotheses, and criticize and nitpick whenever they can.
But at this stage in the game and in view of all the unequivocal evidence, it is for them to finally come up with some fucking evidence, see Juerg's comments here - and failing that, they really need to shut the fuck up!

Enjoy Kátya's paper - this is an author's link so make sure you preserve the text as it may well disappear behind a paywall in the future!

Let's go Shark diving!

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