Shark Feeding Dives
Shark Feeding © Andrejs Jegorovs.

The subject of shark feeding dives has become controversial in recent years. Many maintain this is the best way of getting the diving public to see and understand sharks, thus converting them into dedicated shark conservationists. Shark tourism also makes sharks more valuable to the local economy alive than dead, and has encouraged shark conservation and marine reserve programmes. Others assert that feeding sharks is just asking for trouble and that no large carnivore should ever be encouraged to associate people with food handouts, as an accident will eventually occur.

The Shark Trust has contributed to this discussion by producing draft guidelines for shark feeding dives in consultation with diving experts and dive tourism operations. If you are going on a diving holiday and are offered the chance to participate in a shark feeding dive, find out whether the shark feeding operation is run under the following principles before you jump in:

Principles

Rationale

No indiscriminate surface chumming or chumming around boats. Prevent entrainment of sharks to vessels and to other vessel-based activities.

Only feed sharks using freestanding baits, or by poles or sticks, not by hand or mouth.

Ensure sharks will not expect food from diver's or snorkeler's hands.
Minimise all handling of sharks, particularly when done as a `show' for divers. Respect wild animals - sharks should not become used to being approached or handled by divers.
Don't take fish from reefs or inshore habitats for feeds. Use fish wastes or unwanted bycatch. Minimise effects of removing fish on inshore and reef fish populations and ecosystems.
Dive boats should use permanent moorings, not anchors. Prevent anchor damage to sensitive inshore habitats and reef ecosystems.
Locate feeding sites in coral rubble or sandy areas. Ensure that divers and sharks don't damage living reefs.
Consider carefully the relative locations of feeding sites and other recreational areas. Separate feeding sites from popular diving, snorkelling, swimming and fishing areas.
Minimise number of sites and frequency of feeds, if necessary by agreement between operators. Reduce the overall ecological and behavioural impacts of shark feeding in the area.
Promote a strong diver education programme, covering life history and ecology, the ecological role of sharks, threats from humans and diving conduct. Ensure that all divers are well trained in diving procedures and that shark conservation and awareness is promoted in a sensitive and balanced manner.
Seek legal protection for sharks and their habitats. Protect habitats, dive sites and shark populations exploited by shark tourism.
Liaise with fishermen and local communities, support conservation locally by promoting local educational and interpretation programmes. Spread awareness of the ecological and economic value of sharks, and their special importance as marine wildlife and in local culture.