Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ma'afu Marine Lecture Series:: Shark Reef Marine Reserve: Conservation, Research and Shark Provisioning

Ma'afu Marine Lecture Series

Shark Reef Marine Reserve: Conservation, Research and Shark Provisioning

Ni sa bula vinaka, Colleagues !!

Mike Neumann has kindly agreed to give this week's Ma'afu Marine Lecture, following on from Helen Sykes' inspiring talk on Fiji's Shark Sanctuary Campaign.

Mike will be talking about the origin of Shark Reef Marine Reserve and associated tourism and research aspects. 

Many of you will have seen a number of press releases this week, announcing that researchers from the University of Miami, Florida have completed the first satellite-tagging study to find out how ecotourism impacts on tiger sharks. I copied a summary of their paper below and attached a related paper from 2011. More information can be found under the following links and may provide a useful background for Mikes' lecture.

Please join us :
Date: 15.03.2012
Time: 4:30 pm
Venue:   Veitiri Conference Room, IUCN Office, 5 Ma'afu Street, Suva 

Mike Neumann is a retired lawyer and banking executive.

He now lives in Fiji and is a full-time marine conservationist with a special interest in Sharks.

As always, please kindly share this invitation widely with friends and colleagues, we look forward to see you on Thursday afternoon in Ma'afu street,

Vinaka Vakalevu,



Don't bite the hand that feeds: Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator

Neil Hammerschlag, Austing Gallagher, Julia Wester, Jiangang Luo and Jerald Ault

Ecotourism activities that use food to attract and concentrate wildlife for viewing have become a controversial topic. This debate is best exemplified by the shark dive tourism industry, a highly lucrative and booming global market. Use of chum (fish parts and blood) or food to attract sharks to divers has generated significant concerns, with many criticisms focusing on the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts.

To tackle this issue, we conducted the first satellite telemetry study to examine the long range movement patterns of tiger sharks (the largest apex predator in tropical waters) in response to dive tourism. We studied two separate populations of tiger sharks: one that originated in Florida and the other in the Bahamas. At the Bahamas site, nicknamed "Tiger Beach," chum is regularly used to attract sharks for diving purposes. In contrast, shark feeding for ecotourism is illegal in Florida waters.

Satellite tracking revealed that both groups of tiger sharks displayed similar, long distance migration patterns into the Atlantic. Our data suggests that ecotourism activities do not impact the long term shark movements. Instead, this study allowed us to make several new discoveries related to the previously unknown ecology of Atlantic tiger sharks. Tracked sharks spent a large amount of time in the open ocean, thus challenging conventional wisdom that tiger sharks are generally more "coastal" than "pelagic" species. Both groups of sharks followed the Gulf Stream north east, into areas of high productivity, suggesting an opportunistic foraging strategy for this species. This trait, and the relatively low percentage of daily consumption needs estimated to be provided by chumming, may combine to make tiger sharks less susceptible to the behavioral changes explored here. We further speculate that the Bahamas tourism site may serve as an area for female tiger sharks to gestate while pregnant, before heading off to feed or birth elsewhere.

Because shark-based ecotourism generates significant economic and conservation benefits, and further because our data did not provide evidence of tourism impacting long-term movements of tiger sharks, we believe that managers should not prevent shark diving tourism unless new data were to demonstrate otherwise.

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