Research on the effect of ecotourism on tiger shark behavior

A team of University of Miami researchers, including shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag, have conducted a study using satellite telemetry on tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) in an attempt to learn what kind of impact ecotourism (in this case, baited shark dives) has on the shark’s long-range migration and habitat utilization.

Sample groups were taken from Florida (where baited shark dives are illegal) and the Bahamas (where baited shark dives are abundant). Analysis of the data from each sample group did not produce a significant difference in the measures of movement and behavior evaluated by the study. Additionally, the data revealed information about long-range migration behavior among both sample groups that was previously unknown.

An overview of the research is available at Functional Ecology.

2 comments

  1. drudown says:

    One thing is certain to me, however.

    With the increased regularity and predictability of these eco-tourist feeding events, Tiger, White and Bull sharks that frequent baited dives are displaying uncharacteristically “docile” behaviors that simply reflect basic conditioning that predictably results via food rewards. It is therefore folly to purport to divine larger sociobiological insight. That is as true of sharks at Tiger beach as it was with feeding Grizzly bears at Yellowstone.

    Some might even say that, with highly migratory Tiger and White sharks, it can be more dangerous (e.g., Groh fatality) when and if a hungry, migrating individual shark randomly arrives on the scene on account of the stimuli and realizes a feeding opportunity and one of the ecotourist’s expense.

    (nom nom nom)

    With that said, the Guadalupe dive I did with so many White sharks was one of the best experiences of my life!! Ah me, assumption of risk.

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