Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive
diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

To Or Not To Dive With Fed Sharks?

Although my dive partner and I do not condone feeding sharks; we continue to read about it so that we are educated on the topic. We still are not sure about participating ourselves. I’ll leave several links below for you to read and decide for yourself where you stand on this ethical dilemma. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Here are some of the main points to the debate, as well as potential upcoming legislation.

The two main points seem to be one; whether feeding marine life changes their behavior, and two, if feeding marine life results in danger to humans.

Adding to the uncertainty is evidence from studies – some studies from the University of Miami Shark Research Department report that “there’s no scientific evidence that eco-tourism increases the risk of shark attack,” and did not affect habits of sharks. However, the UMSRD continue to study how to ensure that these activities do not disrupt shark behavior.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

Pro – Feeding Sharks

We’ve read that the benefits of publicity for the plight of sharks outweighs the drawbacks of feeding them.

Also, pro-feeding enthusiasts claim that the volume of food offered to sharks is negligible compared to their daily requirements.

Additionally, the University of Miami Shark Research Department reports there’s no scientific evidence that feeding sharks increases chances of shark attacks.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

Con – Feeding Sharks

The next question is whether sharks learning to follow boats, divers, and food results in danger to humans.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission proposal is designed to support the FKNMS (Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary) Restoration Blueprint proposal. They claim feeding fish causes human safety issues, and even changes the behavior of sharks, fish, and other animals.

DEMA says fish feeding does not result in safety issues for humans.

EarthTouch News Network says it all depends on the species of the sharks – tiger sharks in the Bahamas and Florida don’t change their habits due to feeding, while whale sharks in Australia and the Phillipines do exhibit modified behaviors.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

What I Know From Experience As a 30-Year Boat Captain

My belief is that anytime you disrupt the normal cycle of the environment, it’s not a natural situation. That whole “butterfly effect” seems to be at work. Working as a boat captain for several decades, I’ve watched what happens when manatees are “watered” from dock hoses.

Several bad habits are developed; first, manatees learn to rely on humans instead of themselves for sustenance. Next, they lose their natural survival instincts and become adjusted to being around people. The final result is manatees may be trained to seek out dangerous locations full of propellers, like marinas, for water, instead of avoiding places with noise and danger.

I don’t have enough information to know if this is the case with sharks too. At this point, I can only figure that feeding the sharks disrupts their natural habits. My experience working as a boat captain in the Bahamas was mainly with dolphins. We did see sharks occasionally. Sightings of sharks while we dive has been varied. Sometimes we’ve seen them, sometimes not.

On one dive in particular in the Bahamas, I think we saw a lot of sharks due to feedings in the area. I’m not sure if they were happening concurrently with our dive, but in an adjacent area, or if we dove where feedings are staged and that’s why we saw sharks. That seems to prove that sharks learn to follow the boats and the food.

You can read more about that experience here: SCUBA Diving with Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas – New Providence, Bahamas.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

FWC Shark Feeding Ban in Florida

In Florida, shark and fish feeding was banned in 2001 in state waters.

Then, in October 2020, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recommended allowing fishermen to chum in the federal waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in South Florida.

However, this prohibition would prevent divers, boaters, and swimmers from feeding sharks. Some diver operations feed sharks in order for their divers to photograph and observe sharks.

Some people worry that passing this action in Florida could lead to a country-wide ban in all federal waters.

FWC says they hope the recommendation will prevent fishermen from legally chumming to attract and capture sharks. I have to admit; I’m confused. If you have a clear idea of what I’m missing here – please comment below.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

DEMA’s Position

In December 2020, DEMA, the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, said that they are against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s plan to ban feeding sharks, fish, and other marine species in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which is in federal waters.

DEMA’s position is that feeding sharks does not train sharks to associate people with food, a link which would increase the danger for swimmers, divers, even people in small vessels.

I’ve always learned to “follow the money,” and DEMA’s stand is surely driven by their desire to support dive operators and divers. Also, supporting the wildlife that makes diving worthwhile should be a top concern.

One of their tactical goals is listed as: “Engage in activities which promote the health of aquatic resources while protecting diver access to those resources.” This topic falls under both of those objectives.

DEMA argued that what they call “provisioning ecotourism” does not have a significant impact on sharks. That’s their term for fish feeding; distributing a small volume of food into the water in order to observe and photograph fish or sharks.

The feeding ban would prevent feeding in federal waters for everyone except the shark fishermen.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

Our Thoughts

That sounds to me like the people doing the least harm; divers watching and photographing the sharks, could be banned from chumming, while fishermen who plan to hunt, kill, and sell the sharks would be free to feed them.

Until we feel that feeding sharks does not increase their dependence on humans, encourage them to depart from their normal lifestyle, entice them to areas they don’t normally habit – we will abstain.

While I may choose to not participate in shark feeding, others with strong feelings about the promotion of shark conservation through such activities may wish to continue. The proposed ban would put an end to that.

Please leave your comments below. The more we learn; the more we learn.

diving feeding sharks, Should You Participate in a Shark Feeding Dive

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