Sharks: are we conditioning them?

Shark baiting is a controversial “sport” where participants are lowered in a shark proof cage while tour guides bait the waters for sharks, leading to potentially aggressive behaviors by the shark population.
The practice is used by thrill-seeking scuba divers and underwater photographers.

Wildlife sightings are always hit or miss. You have to go in the right season, with the right company, and be patient, sharks are not always present. This could mean a disappointing trip for the shark tourists, who may even demand their money back.

Boat operators ‘chum’ the waters to encourage sharks to appear. Chum is bucket-loads of rancid, chopped up fish parts and blood, which sharks can detect from miles away with their highly-tuned olfactory senses. In South Africa they tend to use “shark livers” as chum. Killing a shark to see a shark seems a bit counterproductive.

Can chumming change shark behavior? We are not the natural prey of sharks. Most sharks will take one bite, realise their mistake, and back off.

Something has changed, and perhaps it would be better if shark operators did not chum the waters to bait the sharks until further studies into shark behavior are carried out.

There has been a global increase in shark attacks over the past few years, and often in areas not previously prone to shark attacks.

In the recent spate of shark attacks at Port St John’s, all of those sharks made repeated attacks until the victim died from their wounds.

South Africans around Port Elizabeth have seen a huge increase in shark chumming by eco-tourism operators, and in full view of crowded beaches full of surfers and bathers.

Does cage diving with sharks relate to the increase in shark attacks? Could one of the problems be the lack of controls and professionalism? In the beginning companies were started and run by industry professionals who had been working in the industry for a minimum of 5-10 years.

Today with the rise of the web page, anyone from a bus driver to an underwater welder can call themselves a shark diving company and do really awful things with sharks…all in the name of eco-tourism. Are cage breaches, shark entanglements, hard shark interactions a testament to shark based eco tour operations run amok?

Article Source: KZN Wildlife

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