The follow-up report features commentary from George Burgess (University of Florida) and Dr. Carl Edmonds, both of whom liken baited shark dive operations to Pavlov’s conditioning of dogs.
Burgess compares the baited dives to circus acts taken place in the natural environment. Edmonds says that it’s well-established that a Pavlovian response occurs with sharks when they are baited in the wild. Both Burgess and Edmonds indicate that they are of the opinion that baited shark dives are potentially detrimental to both sharks and humans. Burgess goes on to say that baited dives are, in essence, drawing divers to see sharks in their natural world but at the same time are causing them to act unnaturally, due to the element of humans feeding them.
Hoy adds that marine experts argue that the best place to view sharks is in an aquarium, which Hoy says is safer for humans and “certainly, a hell of a lot better for the sharks.”
The implication of the Pavlovian response caused by feeding sharks could arguably increase the chance of a shark attack. Edmonds offered a analogous situation involving divers feeding morays, which he believes caused the morays to begin attacking divers.
While the idea that feeding sharks in the wild is unnatural may seem like a fairly black and white argument, the notion that conditioning sharks through baited dives could result in more attacks on humans might be a bit less clear-cut.
Those on one side of the argument could argue that conditioning sharks to associated dive boats and divers with a feeding situation might increase the risk of shark attacks on divers. Those on the opposing side of the argument might suggest that the sharks are attracted to the bait itself and while boats and divers might signal the presence of bait, it does not necessarily mean that sharks are going to attack humans in the event that the expected bait is not present.
Burgess, Edmonds, and Hoy seem to be in agreement that legislation is needed to address the issue of shark feeding operations. So, where do you stand on the shark feeding debate? Feel free to sound off in the comments section.