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Member Since 27 Feb 2008
Offline Last Active Apr 05 2009 07:05 PM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: PETA's "Sea Kittens" campaign

12 February 2009 - 03:21 PM

This kitten program is for children, wouldn't you say?

Peta's approach is very unfortunate, but is part of the way modern human society views nature. Don't forget Free Willy, and finding Nemo, which were also taken seriously by some adults. It seems that people cut off from nature believe that wild animals are animated stuffed animals or three dimensional cartoons. This attitude has not been helped by modern science which treats them as machines.

Ranting about Peta is not going to help. You should write them a serious letter about how they are harming the cause, and reason with them.

Also, it doesn't take a three digit IQ to realize that expecting any wild ecosystem to support modern human life, from shark fin soup to the expensive sea food restaurants of the big cities, and all of their aquariums, is absurd. The traditional fishers would still be able to get their protein if large scale fishing and mid scale fishing was terminated. As you probably know, most of those fish go to the industrial nations where people are already eating too much protein, or, yes, to the super predators of the seas, your cats, who consume more than their share of these wild animals.

No one would expect terrestrial wild animals to supply everyone with meat, which is why we have cows, so why expect it of the wild animals in the sea?

With good wishes,
shark ethologist
ps fish are to be loved and not eaten.

In Topic: Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas

17 March 2008 - 01:08 PM

Like most people who have weighed in on this subject, I'm very sorry to have heard that this incident occured and my condolences to the Groh family and friends. I've recently been assigned to do an article on this issue and I'm trying to look at it objectively from my perspective as both a photographer and biologist. I'm wondering if anyone knows of scientific studies (not performed by operators) that have focused on regular feeding or baiting sharks and their behavior.


My experience, in a seven year study involving identification and keeping track of close to six hundred sharks relative to six feeding locations, interspersed with swimming with the residents in between feedings, was that sharks AVOID biting companion animals at feedings, and at other times, presumably due to the harm they mutually inflict with their bites. They see humans as other animals in the submarine community, not prey.

This shark attack mania tendency is really corrosive to any thinking about sharks.

In Topic: Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas

03 March 2008 - 04:14 PM

If you want to go on a dive that involves attracting or feeding sharks, at least admit that the whole thing is contrived and that you are indeed treating the animals, as George Burgess said, more like “trained circus animals” than organisms whose natural, unaltered behaviors are entertaining enough. What's next, tricking male sharks into mating with fake females?

Well I really think that's going a bit too far, sort of like saying we are all circus animals because we drive cars. There are lots of unnatural events going on underwater, all part of the modern submarine world, but sharks are still sharks. Anyway, isn't George Burgess a sort of statistician? I was not aware that he is a researcher of shark behavior, or commonly dives with various species of sharks to the extent of knowing them, or how they behave at feedings or how feedings fit into their lives, or what their lives are like. I really think we should avoid over-simplifying sharks, their behavior, their environment, and this issue.

There are reasons why dive clubs hold shark feeding dives, and if they hadn't been so successful and mostly safe, they would not have flourished. I always regarded bringing a bit of food for the sharks I wanted to be with as a gesture of benevolence, and it seemed that it worked that way, too, in the long run. Isn't it normal to give something back when you want something from another, even from a shark?

It goes without saying that In the presence of any large wild predator, one needs to pay attention.


In Topic: Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas

28 February 2008 - 09:43 PM

Sometimes some of you guys sound as though you think that sharks give a damn or appreciate that you're only diving with them to "respect them" or take pretty photos of them in action. THEY DON'T. You are not doing them any favors. (By this point we certainly have enough spectacular photos from Tiger Beach to feature in all the shark conservation publications and endeavors in the world, so let's ease up with the "we need to dive with them to convince people to save them" argument.) And the fact that you have to feed them to get them to show up or do photogenic things such as open their mouths at the surface so you can get that awesome over/under portrait is evidence that your respect for their natural behavior only goes so far and seems pretty vulnerable to the persuasive powers of artistic and financial incentives. If it seems like your dive is going to be shark-less, you are willing to alter their behavior. Is that respectful? Would it not be more respectful to simply dive with as little impact as possible (if at all) and let the sharks behave as naturally as possible? It's one of the most basic rules of stewardship: Don't feed the animals or do anything to change their behavior.
"Associate humans with food" means that when an animal encounters its food items and humans at the same time and place, one of several lessons can be learned that causes the animal to thenceforth "think" of humans and food items as synonymous or contemporaneous. This can easily condition the animal to behave around humans in a way that they normally wouldn't (such as NOT disappearing when you're in the water and, instead, congregating around a boat), and can lead to "accidentally" biting the wrong part of that Human-Food association. If you have a golden retriever, I'm sure you spent time conditioning it to make all kinds of associations, such as "opening the cabinet" = "dinnertime" or "shitting on the rug" = "punishment time."

Since you don't know what I was doing, spending time with sharks to know them, I can't fault you for putting me into some sort of stereo type of your own making, so I'll not bother addressing this

And the inability of many shark species to bite people.
And more luck.

No, it goes too far for it to be luck.

And the natural disinterest on the part of sharks toward humans.
And the fact that most humans tend to not "caress" the most dangerous species, because we know the harmless ones from the potentially harmful ones.


I'm sure you know very well, Ila, that Polynesians have long had a deep respect for sharks, but despite their comfort around those animals they certainly knew that some of them were dangerous and to be avoided. In Tongan there is an old saying, "Lukia tenifa 'i hono tahi," which means "challenging the tiger shark in his sea." Notice that the shark in the proverb is not a zebra shark (takaneva) or a blacktip reef shark (kapakau hingano), but a big, dangerous shark that has, every once in a while, killed Polynesians over the course of more than a thousand years. Clearly there's a reason for that. The fact that Fijian children play with baby nurse sharks is not evidence that someone should grab a great white's dorsal fin or stick a camera near the mouth of a bull without thinking long and hard about it first.

BTW, there have been plenty of shark attacks in your neck of the woods, Ila, including at least one fatal attack in French Polynesia in the ISAF database. And the ISAF barely scratches the surface of what's happened in the remote corners of the world.

Its generally thought that its the needlefish who kill here, not the sharks. But, I certainly can't argue with you if you have the statistics. It would be interesting to know the circumstances of these bites, since a few of them, reported as attacks were not, others were quite hyped up. I have an article in review which touches on the subject, such as shark attacks on people taken seriously even though they were slashing up the shark with a machete. While I know that Polynesians have always revered sharks and fed the local resident a part of their catch, but many of them are now extremely cruel to animals of accessibly species. Its a national problem.

None of the people I know have had any trouble with sharks attacking or biting people though they have been conducting shark feeding dives for decades.

I repeat that my comments are from my own experience only, closely observing the behaviour of sharks at feedings and in their daily lives, and who attends when.

With good wishes,

In Topic: Shark bite on Shear Water, Bahamas

28 February 2008 - 08:19 PM

quote name='zippsy' date='Feb 28 2008, 07:21 PM' post='160283']
Sorry, I know it looks like I am picking on you but....
Actually, I am not too keen on anyone dumping scraps from boats either. It's just that I didn't realize that there where commercial fishermen on the forum. This is for them: HEY, KNOCK IT OFF!!!
The sharks smell the chum and take that as a signal to come over to play cards or catch a movie??? :) No wonder I have trouble making friends. I only offer them beer. :o

True. But when they smell an easy meal and come over to socialize, don't you think they expect at least a snack? :P

What I meant was that in most cases sharks aren't so hungry that they are frantic for food. They are drawn to feedings partly just to be part of the group, and they swim together through the region, and follow each other around. Swim with them.. you will see this. They are always coming up behind another individual present, usually an infrequent visitor. The same sharks do not always attend, because the feedings aren't that important to them.

When they are hungry, they eat. They have fairly large territories, and the shark feedings that take place in them regularly are known about and part of their environment. They are also not so stupid that they cannot distinguish between a feeding, a spear fisherman, and a swimmer. Different things attract them, because they are curious and intelligent animals, but when they want to eat, they eat. If there is a feeding going on, they will go there, if not, they catch their natural prey.

Just what I have observed over many years.

With good wishes,