Shark Feeding By Sonya and Nolan What is the big deal? • Number one argument against shark feed is…. Public safety, are the sharks associating food with people? • Is it safe for the sharks and other marine animals? • How is it affecting the ecosystem? • Is it disrespectful to native Hawaiian culture? Specific Controversy • Shark feeding has already been banned in state and federal waters except for fishing. • The present controversy is in regards to feeding for viewing the sharks. Human Safety • Shark tours go three miles off shore to a location where the sharks • • • • already exist due to crab fishing ships dumping bait for the past 40 years. Research shows that there is no evidence of sharks following boats back to the harbor. At some of the most popular of Florida’s beaches fishing piers are located next to baiting spots where recreational fishermen bait the water constantly. This introduces blood and fish guts into the mix of splashing beach goers into murky waters which creates a confusing signal to passing sharks. There have been no increased reports of shark attacks in those locations. 89% of all sharks observed at cage diving sites are Galapason and Sandbar sharks, which rarely attack humans. Inshore movements by these sharks associated with cage diving operations are extremely rare. (Study done by International Ecotourism Society) Activities such as surfing or paddling on a surf board are very different from the associated stimuli with the tour operations, the sound of boat engines. Therefore the tours are unlikely to stimulate a conditioned feeding response in sharks. Shark Safety • Sharks are allowed to come and go as they please. They are already nearby and are attracted by the sound of the boat. • The added food allows the sharks to spend less time foraging for food themselves and allows them more time to breed and travel. • Shark tours support conservation of sharks and fund Shark Allies, a non profit organization that supports the protection of sharks and works to put restrictions on shark killing. • Is it right to allow feeding to kill sharks but not study them? The Ecosystem • Shark movement patterns in areas where sharks are fed are consistent with other areas where shark feeding is not present. • Shark tours educate people on the importance of sharks within an ecosystem. • The tours allow the sharks to be studied so we can help them. Daily observations made during the tours are invaluable. Sharks are not easily studied and by feeding them they are easier to study. Hawaiian Culture • In Hawaiian ‘aumakua is defined as a benevolent guardian spirit of family protector. In some cases these ‘aumakua are in the form of sharks. There is a direct connection and blood relationship between the shark and the family. Caring and feeding of an ‘aumakua was an essential part of the relationship and the sharks were always cared for, such as scraping the barnacles off it’s back and making sure it was well. • Early Hawaiian fishermen would throw out some of the first of their catch to feed the sharks. Only when the sharks appeared did they have good luck and full nets. • Is the feeding of sharks for viewing purposes disrespectful to both the sharks and the culture? Although shark feeding isn’t done for the same reasons as it was before, it is still practiced in a very similar way and teaches people to respect the sharks and in return helps the sharks. Statistics • Only 4 fatal attacks in Hawaii in the past 20 years. • The tours have been operating off of the north shore since 2001, and during that time there has been no significant change in the frequency of attacks, even with increasing populations at the beaches. Financial Benefits • A portion of proceeds for viewing tours goes directly to non profit organizations to support shark research, education projects, and legislative efforts to strengthen ocean conservation. They also contribute to independent shark research on the north shore of Oahu and donate money to Waialua High School to start marine science programs and are offering ongoing help through donations and fund raising to expand the program. Studies Conducted Studies were done by The International Ecotourism Society through the shark tours. 30 sharks were captured at diving sites and given small ultrasonic transmitters. Underwater listening stations were placed at the cage diving sites at the entrance to Haleiwa Harbor Channel and at surf breaks along the north shore of Oahu. This system is being used to remotely track shark movements at multiple locations in the Hawaiian waters. The receivers are retrieved by divers to find out which sharks have visited, when they came, and how long they stayed.
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