Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Using satellite technology to evaluate the effects of ecotourism on tiger sharks

Date:
March 9, 2012
Source:
British Ecological Society (BES)
Summary:
Ecotourism activities that use food to attract and concentrate wildlife for viewing have become a controversial topic in ecological studies. This debate is best exemplified by the shark dive tourism industry, a highly lucrative and booming global market. Use of chum or food to attract big sharks to areas where divers can view the dwindling populations of these animals has generated significant criticism because of the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts to the species. However, the debate has been largely rhetorical due to a lack of sufficient data to make any conclusions either way.

A large female tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) circles a group of divers at a popular dive-tourism site, nicknamed "Tiger Beach" in the Bahamas.
Credit: Copyright Jim Abernethy

Ecotourism activities that use food to attract and concentrate wildlife for viewing have become a controversial topic in ecological studies. This debate is best exemplified by the shark dive tourism industry, a highly lucrative and booming global market. Use of chum or food to attract big sharks to areas where divers can view the dwindling populations of these animals has generated significant criticism because of the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts to the species. However, the debate has been largely rhetorical due to a lack of sufficient data to make any conclusions either way.

Five University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science researchers, Drs. Neil Hammerschlag, Jerald S. Ault and Jiangang Luo, and graduate students Austin Gallagher and Julia Wester, combined efforts to tackle this issue. In a paper published in the British Ecological Society's Functional Ecology titled, "Don't bite the hand that feeds: Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator," the team conducted the first satellite tagging study to examine the long-term and long range movement patterns of tiger sharks (the largest apex predator in tropical waters) in response to dive tourism.

"We studied two separate populations of tiger sharks: one that originated in Florida and the other in the Bahamas," says Hammerschlag. At the Bahamas site, nicknamed Tiger Beach, chum is widely used to attract sharks for dive tourism purposes. In contrast, shark feeding for ecotourism in Florida waters is illegal.

The team hypothesized that Tiger Beach sharks would exhibit restricted movements around the dive site, especially when compared to tiger sharks tagged in Florida. However, what they discovered was totally different -- Tiger Beach sharks did not exhibit restricted movements near the dive site. Instead, the Bahamas sharks occupied an area over 8500 km2 in size -- almost five times greater than Florida tiger sharks.

"Not only did we discover that ecotourism provisioning did not affect tiger shark behavior, we found that tiger sharks undergo previously unknown long-distance migrations up to 3,500 km into the open Atlantic. These apparent feeding forays follow the Gulf Stream, an area of high biological productivity that concentrates shark prey," said Ault.

"Given the economic and conservation benefits we believe managers should not prevent shark diving tourism out of hand until sufficient data were to demonstrate otherwise," added Hammerschlag.

Shark finning, the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins and then disposing of the body at sea, is resulting in immense shark population declines worldwide. Fins are sold to support the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In a 2011 study by UM's Gallagher & Hammerschlag, they showed that shark dive tourism generates more money to local economies than does killing the sharks.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by British Ecological Society (BES). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Neil Hammerschlag, Austin J. Gallagher, Julia Wester, Jiangang Luo, Jerald S. Ault. Don’t bite the hand that feeds: assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator. Functional Ecology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x

Cite This Page:

British Ecological Society (BES). "Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Using satellite technology to evaluate the effects of ecotourism on tiger sharks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309135847.htm>.
British Ecological Society (BES). (2012, March 9). Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Using satellite technology to evaluate the effects of ecotourism on tiger sharks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309135847.htm
British Ecological Society (BES). "Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Using satellite technology to evaluate the effects of ecotourism on tiger sharks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120309135847.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins