Shark dive tourism is a lucrative and booming global market. Feeding to attract sharks to divers has generated significant concerns, with many criticisms focusing on the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts. A lecture by Mike Neumann, an established dive operator practicing shark feeding at Shark Reef Marine Reserve on Fiji’s Coral Coast, informed lively discussion this week.
Mike highlighted recent research from the University of Miami (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iFl7BxbnXQ) showing that sharks from Barbados (where shark feeding is common) maintain similar territories and long-distance feeding forays as sharks in Florida, where there is no shark feeding.
Visitors attracted to see the big sharks are making a significant contribution to the local economy on and help communities ‘monitise’ the benefits of Marine Protected Areas. Mike’s business also raises awareness of the habitat degradation and unsustainable fishing (mainly due to the high value of shark fins) that contribute to a rapidly decreasing shark population in the Pacific.
Given the research findings, Mike and others believe that that shark diving tourism should be accepted as a part of the conservation landscape in Fiji and put the onus on those who disagree to provide evidence demonstrating otherwise.