Shark Feeding: Good or Bad?

Shark Feeding: Good or Bad?

They say that “shark feeding” is a good thing. Good for sharks and that it also spreads awareness about the safety of sharks and their habitat.

Leaving the bottom when a tiger shark is around can be a bad idea.

Greg Amptman

So should we support shark feeding? This topic has been controversial for several years. Some say it changes the biological behavior of sharks and it’s harmful to the marine ecosystem.

Others say sharks tend to attack humans during this activity or relate the sight of divers to food.

Let’s compare the pros and cons of shark feeding along with some supporting information for each side.

Is It Really Bad?

Shark feeding, being good or bad, depends on a person’s point of view. But there are some justified concerns about why this activity is inappropriate for both humans and sharks.

Pavlovian Response

A group of divers photograph and interact with a tiger shark

Greg Amptman

Repeatedly being fed by humans, sharks begin associating food with humans and dive boats.

When sharks start to do this it becomes a concern that shark feeding will change and possibly even cause sharks to lose their innate eating habits. Sharks will become so familiar with this feeding they will expect to be fed when they see scuba divers.

This behavior is scientifically termed as a “Pavlovian response”. This behavior is also seen in other wild animals. What would eventually happen if sharks in one area are flooded with this artificial feeding activity and then feeding is suddenly stopped, they may become vicious and aggressive towards divers.

Shark Feeding Frenzy

Caribbean Reef Sharks

Manda Nicholls

A shark feeding frenzy occurs when a number of sharks fight for common prey. They are not used to group lunch and they don't know the concept of sharing their food with other sharks.

There are times scuba divers dive down with a large container full of fish for the hungry sharks. When the sharks show up, they can become overexcited and might start thrashing around and fighting with each other.

The sharks bite each other or bite into anything else that gets in their way. This might also include divers that are observing the feeding.

Is It Really Good?

Done in a proper way, many find shark feeding entirely safe and eco-friendly. Divers interaction with sharks creates awareness for sharks and might help in the fight against shark fishing.

It Is Not Dangerous

According to the shark feeders, it is recommended not to feed them all the way until they are full. At this time they are given one or two containers of fish. This way they only receive a “taste” of the food and not their entire meal.

Doing it this way, the sharks are generally not waiting to be fed. They arrive at the feeding point being curious, simply wanting a taste of the food. This way their normal food habit is not being changed.

Spreading Awareness

A tiger shark shark circling around a group of divers.

Greg Amptman

Shark feeding is also considered a great method of spreading awareness about these stunning animals. When a shark feeding takes place, underwater photographers takes pictures of the whole thing showing the sharks to all the non-divers.

These pictures can help educate the public about sharks' behavior and habitat, serving conservation of this precious marine creature.

We can determine after weighing all of this information as to whether shark feeding is good or bad. It largely depends on the situation, human behavior, plus many other aspects. Without taking sides, we are simply trying to say that we all must attempt to respect our nature.

Also keeping our own safety in mind and that of the eco-system, as well.

Never on Your Own

DIVE.in does not recommend that you go out on your own to feed wild animals. Sharks are predators and can seriously risk your health. If you want to see a shark feeding, follow a scuba center that is specialized in shark diving and feeding.

Have you ever been on a Shark feeding dive? What is your opinion on shark feeding? Should it be banned or not? Is this from of interaction with animals okay?

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world.He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]

11 Comments

  1. Nora

    It’s not right! It’s like feeding lions on a safari. We are not suppose to interfere with nature. I would never choose to support this kind of behavior.

    Reply
  2. Eli The Rodeo Clown Says

    Tiger Beach Bahamas has been seriously degraded because of just one person who had started hand feeding Tigers to feed his own career track. That person enjoys getting these wild animals to perform stunts. These animals have become beggars not a good combination. Stop hand feeding now!

    Reply
  3. Greg

    I strongly disagree with your comments. If you had done your homework you would have found that Dr. Neil Hammerschlage has done research on the “Feeding/No Feeding” controversy. He used two control groups, sharks around Florida where feeding and chumming is illegal and with the sharks in and around Tiger Beach. His findings were surprising to say the least. Tiger Beach sharks behavior match nearly exactly to the control group of sharks in Florida. The bottom line is, feeding did not in anyway change the sharks migration, hunting or behavior in anyway.

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      Thanks for commenting and sharing that interesting research. Dr. Neil is really doing some amazing projects! What got me thinking, was the evidences pointing to shark feeding, or stop in shark feeding, was directly linked to the shark attacks in Egypt in 2010?

    • Arnaud

      Dear Greg,

      Dr. Neil Hammerschlage was careful in his study to mention that “behavioural impacts of ecotourism provisioning on sharks
      are likely scale, site and species specific”.

      He explicitly said “we are reticent to extend
      our results to other species and ⁄ or provisioning ecotourism
      locations around the world”.

      So according to that study the economic and conservation benefits of shark feeding **in the Bahamas** outweigh the concerns we could have… **until another study proves otherwise**.

      In any case, it’s too soon to assume that the same is true everywhere in the world.

      You can find the studies here:

      * Don’t bite the hand that feeds: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x/asset/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x.pdf?v=1&t=iq50yubz&s=1c270328f10bb1723f28923ace226131eff85175

      * Shark feeding economy: http://publications.oceans.ubc.ca/webfm_send/34

  4. Greg

    Yes I remember that. It involved a single oceanic white tip where the person feeding it would from what I understood would tease the shark by keeping bait in a pouch on his hip which could explain why the shark was taking bites out of peoples buttocks. Taking food out of bait crates with safety divers around, away from areas that people swim is the only safe way to go. The operation that was feeding the white tip didn’t take that into account.
    Good point Torben. Thanks for sharing. =)

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      I think this is the my biggest conflict. I love sharks and love watching them, but I’m not sure the feeding is done properly all around the world. And I guess we only need one bad shark, or bad shark feeder (like i Egypt) to give sharks all over the world a bad reputation.

  5. Ned

    Totally against it. Anybody who says “you should see Dr Neil …. is just highlighting and broadening the ignorance from 1 sample. Can anybody say that feeding will definitely NOT affect sharks feeding patterns or NOT lead to shark behaviour associating divers with food – or worse generally associate human beings to feeding. No they can’t. Sharks recognise and follow food sources. Where the food source becomes regular and permanent then this increases the likelihood of sharks associating this as a new food source whether natural or manmade.

    An expansion of the seal population in California was believed to be the reason Great Whites were seen much further south than normal (following the food source) and in the Red Sea the feeding of Reef Fish by tourists is believed to be the reason Oceanic White Tips left their more natural deepwater habitat and attacked some tourists in shallow water. Lured by the sound of feeding fish. It is all about natural behaviour and instincts.

    Reply
  6. Tristan Paylado

    Let me also present some points to consider

    1. could be address to the dive operators: The type of fish fed to sharks are/or maybe different from the type of fish living in the sharks locality

    2. Most of the shark species naturally hunt and feed at night while shark feeding by divers is done during daytime.

    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  7. Carrie French

    Very interesting to me. As a scientist myself but different discipline, I find it most exciting to learn about what marine scientists have discovered. I love being able to have my questions answered on studies that have been conducted by professionals. We form our “opinions” and later find out the reality or nature of the beast. Thank you guys! I will follow all of your studies and enjoy. I only wish I could accompany the brave ones at sea! Keep the info coming guys!

    Reply
  8. Ian Wickison

    An interesting and balanced article. However, feeding sharks for profit and sensationalism is a bad business. I see no evidence that this sport is helping the shark or helping us understand sharks. It is letting the shark know that it should not fear man and this can lead to accidents and possible deaths. As said above, you don’t walk around a safari park in Africa trying to feed lions and leopards.

    It is fundamentally a sensationalist event created to make money, as the diving adventure trips for this are very expensive. I have many years of experience diving with sharks from back in the 70’s in the Red Sea as part of a back up film crew for Jacques Cousteau. The sharks we filmed had little or no contact with divers before our arrival and behaved accordingly. We were researching shark to man reactions with no food in the water (except us perhaps). We used shark sticks (without the bang)..;-) to ward off the sharks when numbers got high. Each research diver had another diver right behind them to cover their backs as proved necessary several times.

    Our shark of choice for the research was the oceanic white tip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus). This shark is a fearsome individual and an apex predator.. Very cautious initially, they grew bolder quite quickly. Although we never had any accidents whilst filming, we were reliably informed that had we chummied the water or taken food down for them it could all have gone disastrously wrong. We had been informed of this before we entered the water. I firmly feel that shark feeding is a human folly that has and will lead to more accidents.

    Reply

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