[Coral-List] Shark Feeding Question

Sarah Frias-Torres sfrias_torres at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 18 11:43:16 EST 2014

Dear all, Not long ago, I got crucified in this list for showing a video where I was interacting and (oh the horror) touching a Goliath Grouper. In the upheaval, I didn't get the chance to say that I had done a Jane Goodall on that grouper, meaning, I had spent several dives getting to know that particular grouper, not feeding her but slowly swimming by her side, hanging around grouper-style and earning her trust. Perhaps that's the lesson to learn here.
After years studying animal behavior in the wild, my personal take of feeding wild animals is that the wild is always at the loosing end. The purpose of feeding wildlife is no other than to put the animals at our service. We want to see the animals doing things, and since we don't have the patience of Jane Goodall or Diane Fossey, we trick them with food to be here and now, so they fit our entertainment purpose. 
Even the most well intentioned ecotourist is a predator, a benign one, but still a predator. You can predate old style (i.e. killing and eating a fish), or you can be subtle and set its behavior in disarray just enough to diminish long term fitness.
What kinds of behavior can we interfere with?1) pecking order, a sequence that determines who feeds first and who follows. This order could be well established, such as the alpha (dominant male and female) to the omega individual in the wolf, or it can be more fluid and ever changing as in marine species. The fish have already figured out who should eat first, but the humans don't know the correct feeding order. 2) feeding ecology: we don't always provide the correct food3) site attachment: by feeding regularly the fish, we condition them to associate divers with food at a specific time and place, which can conflict with their normal daily or seasonal movements.4) naivete: Billy Causey already  illustrated the fate of the naive fish who no longer watch out for anglers or spearfishers
There are almost no research funds to spend time underwater and just look at the fish and see what they do, and understand why they do it. That's the good old field-based behavioral ecology.  But the millions of dollars moving around fisheries, ecotourism, diving, etc, they all depend on truly knowing animal behavior.
Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. Coordinator Reef Rescuers ProgramIsland Conservation Centre Nature Seychelles,Amitie, Praslin, Seychelleshttp://www.natureseychelles.org-and-Research CollaboratorSmithsonian-National Museum of Natural Historyat Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, FL, USATwitter: @GrouperDocBlog: http://grouperluna.wordpress.comhttp://independent..academia.edu/SarahFriasTorres

> Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2014 10:22:57 -0500
> From: sealab at earthlink.net
> To: billy.causey at noaa.gov; dobura at cordioea.net
> CC: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Shark Feeding Question
>    David and Billy,
>    While you both expertly appeal to common sense, it seems that science today
>    prefers to reflect popular culture rather than challenge its transgressions.
>    At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, the trend is ominous because it
>    is likely  an indication of what's to come. Diverting from established
>    doctrine (pertaining to the general practice of feeding wildlife), the
>    conclusions cited in a number of recent papers on the subject of shark
>    feeding  seem  to suggest that conservation efforts and protected area
>    management would best be served by facing reality and accepting things for
>    what they are or at the very least, finding creative ways to subscribe to
>    and  benefit from what they have become. Although this may be the most
>    pragmatic approach, it gives the impression that authoritative scientific
>    objectivity has given way to the whims of shifting societal values and
>    beliefs. For the time being, those who condone shark feeding are provided
>    cover  from  the full range of implications that may result from these
>    activities by a fog of ambiguity. There is no hard scientific evidence to
>    contend  with  and they know full well that by the time enough data is
>    collected and crunched, baselines will have been obscured and a new era of
>    "novel natural communities" will have taken hold. This is pretty much as it
>    always has been. Humankind will by then have moved on and adjusted to a new
>    reality remorseless in reaction to the impacts of its intrusion. After all,
>    baselines reflecting the pristine conditions that once existed on coral
>    reefs  of  the past are little more than a fading memory becoming more
>    mystical, unfamiliar and elusive with every passing day.
>    Hoping for change.
>    With best regards,
>    Steve
>    -----Original Message-----
>    >From: Billy Causey - NOAA Federal
>    >Sent: Feb 18, 2014 8:49 AM
>    >To: David Obura
>    >Cc: "coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov"
>    >Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Shark Feeding Question
>    >
>    >David,
>    >It's always great to hear from you! You made some excellent points in
>    >your response and I agree with all of them.
>    >
>    >Please allow me to share a short story from the mid - 1980's when I
>    >was managing the small Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary in the Lower
>    >Florida Keys. At the time, we allowed fishing on top of the fore reef
>    >and the spur and groove formation. Now that area is a no take
>    >Sanctuary Preservation Area.
>    >
>    >Back to the story, one day I received a call from an older, excited
>    >recreational fisherman who exclaimed that "this sanctuary thing was
>    >working!" He said he had tied up to one of our mooring buoys and
>    >caught his limit in huge Yellowtail Snapper in minutes! What he
>    >didn't know was that he was catching fish that divers had been feeding
>    >crackers, cheese whiz and all sorts of food matter to the fish. The
>    >old fishermen had found a gold mine of fish that had been conditioned
>    >to bite anything that hit the water!! But, he liked that sanctuary
>    >thing!!
>    >
>    >A sad, but true story that was frequently repeated .
>    >
>    >Cheers,
>    >Billy
>    >
>    >Billy D. Causey, Ph.D..
>    >Southeast Regional Director
>    >NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
>    >
>    >33 East Quay Road
>    >Key West, Florida 33040
>    >
>    >Phone:
>    >305 809 4670 office
>    >305 395 0150 mobile
>    >305 293 5011 fax
>    >
>    >Email:
>    >billy..causey at noaa.gov
>    >
>    >
>    >> On Feb 18, 2014, at 7:30 AM, David Obura wrote:
>    >>
>    >>
>    >> Hi all,
>    >>
>    >> general experience with feeding or attracting wild animals (which fish
>    and sharks are) in Africa has been that the direct result of increased
>    human-animal interactions is precisely what you could predict. Where those
>    animals are nice and cuddly, the interactions are probably beneficial (at
>    least to humans). Where they are large or potentially dangerous (hippos,
>    leopard, elephant, lion), then, surprise surprise, the number of harmful
>    interactions  on  humans  go  up!!  Where habitat loss also results in
>    intensification  of  human-wildlife interactions you also see the same
>    results,  of  greater harmful interactions to people, though hardly in
>    proportion to the increase in harmful interactions for the animals.
>    >>
>    >> Finding published literature on this can be difficult (though I'm sure
>    its extensive in terrestrial cases) because it is of course so emotive to us
>    - but it is common sense. The micro-view of pro-feeders, centered around
>    their own business opportunity or "I know my backyard" mentality should not
>    be given excessive weight against what is common sense AND backed up by a
>    mix of experience and data from the broader world out there!
>    >>
>    >> My two cents, anyway,
>    >>
>    >> David
>    >>
>    >>
>    >>
>    >>
>    >> CORDIO East Africa
>    >> #9 Kibaki Flats, Kenyatta Beach, Bamburi Beach
>    >> P.O.BOX 10135 Mombasa 80101, Kenya
>    >> www.cordioea.net // www.iucn.org/cccr
>    >> Mobile: 254-715 067417
>    >> Email: dobura at cordioea.net; davidobura at gmail.com
>    >> Skype dobura
>    >>
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