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Drew

Does shark feeding alter behavior?

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Limbatus groups numbering in tens now just off Aliwal. Mobbing behaviour seen to deter Tigers coming in for food.

Cheers,

Mark.

 

Mark, the tiger shark dive in Aliwal has changed tremendously since it's beginnings in the 90s.

Right now, there are at least 4-5 operators that I know of doing the feeds. When it first started, the tigers were seasonal and there were a few bronze whalers and the rare great white popping in. Due to the high frequency of feeding by multiple operators, it has affected the feeding cycles. Obviously operators compete for the same sharks, so chumming doesn't work as well as having a chunk of tuna. Then in 2002, the decline of bronze whalers (due to longline fishing for fins) brought about the increase in C. Limbatus in the area. Initially they would scram once a tigershark was in the area. Slowly, they got braver as the tigers didn't pay attention to them but to the chunks of tunas. They now rule the shark dives and often nip at fins etc. There have been incidents which are not reported officially. The problem is the constant feeding of the sharks, which has altered the shark's behavior.

I personally have never liked feeding sharks for shots. I'd rather wear a rebreather, or try my luck in a baitball or cleaning station. Obviously it is now a profitable industry and in the end, it may help the sharks. Then again, should anyone be bitten, the negative publicity and reinforcement of the 'killer' stereotype can work the other way.

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Back from a month on the road...whew!

 

Well put Drew. Feeding certainly changes sharks behavior. Where food is consistently available and where they don't get killed hunting for it, sharks will show up. I think the most significant behavior change (as in the bahamas) is that sharks are left alive to actually participate in shark feeds. Having just returned from Raja Ampat, I can say with great confidence they have not given that option there :angry:

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Back from a month on the road...whew!

 

Well put Drew. Feeding certainly changes sharks behavior. Where food is consistently available and where they don't get killed hunting for it, sharks will show up. I think the most significant behavior change (as in the bahamas) is that sharks are left alive to actually participate in shark feeds. Having just returned from Raja Ampat, I can say with great confidence they have not given that option there :P

Well,the debate on the safety of feeding to attract sharks for viewing or photography has certainly hotted up with the recent fatality.Personally I'm against any methods of attracting in order to satisfy our human trophy list,be it viewing or photography.

It came to light here( Cape province -South Africa)recentlly the commercial,shark viewing and photography industry,those guys taking out tourists ,filmmakers and magazine photographers were chumming for great white with the secret ingredients containing a mix of smaller sharks.One on the list is the seven gill cowshark not all that plentiful in these waters.

As tourists we sometimes ignore the behind the scenes casualties to go home with those amazing encounters.If we as divers boycott shark feeding dives it will decrease.But then again you've travelled all the way to south Africa to see a Great White,you've paid a whack to sea a Great White and it may just be the only opportunity you ever get to see a Great White,would you overlook the chumming or decline.

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Steele,

You make a great point here. I do not support the use of species that are endangered (sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays, etc) to attract sharks. I also do not condone the use of bait that was obtained from destructive fishing methods. If bait used is a by-product of an existing industry (say fish scraps and heads from restaurant catch), that is a different story. That by-product would otherwise end up wasted in a dumpster to rot.

Personally, I have noticed far healthier populations of sharks in parts of the world where shark diving is promoted. Where it is not, sharks tend to be terribly exploited. There is much more to this debate of course that I will leave to others.

 

In the final analysis, if there is not an economic reason to preserve a species, it will be removed. Shark dives make sharks worth more alive than dead. This creates an incentive to preserve them. Personally, I prefer alive sharks with somewhat altered behavior to dead sharks.

-shawn

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Hi Again,

The attitude of the general public has changed for the better in South Africa over the last ten years.And this has been done through education,two world class aquariums which have Shark enclosures with shark diving allowed.This firstly allows the novice diver safe interaction with the sharks,and secondly the general public can see divers diving amongst the sharks ,albeit well fed Raggies(sand Tigers) dispelling the myth that these are man eaters.We have various shark friendly institutions that work hard to educate the general public on the importance of marine ecology.

The once internationally sought after Great white game fishing has been replaced with shark cage diving.So now we have some of the permit holders allowed to commercially run great white shark cage diving(yes its regulated):chumming on a regular basis.Have we seen an increase in shark-man incidents.Yes...but now the Great White is a protected species and there are plenty more humans participating in water sports.So the changes of encounters are greater.

This all gets back to surface chumming and the argument is batted back and forth.It defiantly attracts the sharks to a feeding point.One of the Operators even offered chumming the water at a certain point during peak beach usage time to increase beach user safety.

This defiantly is influencing the sharks behaviour.

As scuba divers(non cage) its illegal for us to feed the fish,so the shark viewing underwater is pretty much depending on local knowledge and location.

Will i dive in an area demarked as shark cage(shark feeding) diving area.

Not yet.

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Steele

I think you first have to realize being on a shooter's forum, you'll see a lot more people who are pro feeding for the image. Chum/baiting is the only way to shoot sharks up close and personal, except for maybe 3 or 4 places in the world I can think of where close encounters good enough for shooting without human chumming. But it is highly random.

Now the issue is whether the chumming/baiting conditions the sharks associates food with humans. As of now, there is no conclusive study done. You have mostly anthropomorphic conclusions based on mostly anecdotal evidence, saying sharks don't associate. Then you also have people making assumptions about different species of sharks based on anecdotal evidence on one species(mostly reef sharks). Then throw in the different methodologies of chumming/feeding(gansbaai vs guadalupe for eg.) and you have really bad 'data' flying around and people coming with conclusions based on them.

The attitudes of ZA's population may have changed but that doesn't negate the fact that ZA is one of the top 10 exporter of shark fins in the world. Have you noticed not too many bronze whaler/copper/C brachyrus sharks in your waters? Hit hard by the longliners. I think Carte Blanche did an exposé on that a few years back.

Now does shark diving protect the species? I'd say based on evidence in many parts of the world, not directly. However in a few areas, there's strong evidence that it does directly so, but also fringe industries like that of the tiger/bull shark diving gets umbrella coverage. Figures and numbers are always presented to suit the cause, and thus in this day of poor journalistic integrity and googling the 'reliable' info, a lot is lost.

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Well put Drew.

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Lost as to why this thread was started by using a quote from me. I guess to get the argumentative point started.

 

Way to go.

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i am against all shark dives where bait or chum is used that i am not participating in. this is a tough call for me personally. i love sharks and am for their preservation. but i also believe that if you are excited about something, you should get to experience it. the best thing for the sharks may be to leave them alone. but it may be good to raise awareness and dispell myths through shark dives. i know i wouldn't be so passionate if i didn't get t odive with them. so what is the perfect symbiotic relationship? how do we avoid being parasitic? is that even in our nature?

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Figures and numbers are always presented to suit the cause, and thus in this day of poor journalistic integrity and googling the 'reliable' info, a lot is lost.

 

 

As Shawn said, nicely put. Though sometimes there are disagreements, when you or shawn or the various others discuss these matters here I appreciate the detail, thoughts and discussions that go on.

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i am against all shark dives where bait or chum is used that i am not participating in.

Matt, that's pretty much what many photographers think...it's ok if I do it but others can't :D

To be realistic, there are so many sides to this equation. The image seekers cannot possible get the same images in 99.9% of the open ocean encounters without chumming, so obviously they are pro-chumming. Then the service providers, whereby mini-industries are built around this lucrative business, are obviously going to be for this sort of activity.

Looking at the demystification argument, does it really do that? Most of the shots that I see depict the shark as having big teeth and 'killer' smile. Even shark week on Discovery plays off the killing machine. And really, the shark is essentially a fine tuned killing machine that can't show a 'soft' marketable side. And when you have shark bites, all the hysteria gets amplified and whatever goodwill the sharks had dissipates faster than you are able to fin a shark. Would sharks have done better without Jaws? I mean land mammals like lions and gorillas got protected because of the efforts of individuals. But the oceans are so vast and impossible to police strictly, especially with unscrupulous fishemen who bypass the law for profit. I doubt sharks can be protected worldwide by any one person. It will take a collective effort. There is a slow governmental movement toward protecting sharks in international waters. Is it enough? Obviously NOT when you have a BILLION dollar industry looking for every last fin in the sea.

Now going back to the chumming issue, I doubt anyone who has common sense can deny chumming/baiting alters the behavior of sharks. However, is it a detrimental effect for the sharks and the reef ecology in general? Will the publicity generated by a handful of photographers and adventure seekers do much for the shark? The great white shark for example gained protection as a species first in 1991 in South Africa. Only after that was shark cage diving allowed there. Now turn that around with Rodney Fox, who's been shark diving since the 60s, yet australia only protected the sharks in the 90s.

On the other hand you have the case of the Bahamas whereby longlining licences were applied for and the shark diving industry and BDA showed the Bahamian authorities that the shark diving brought more money on a constant basis vs fishing. It's never a simple yes and no answer.

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Drew..you are on a rolll...I concur again!

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Perspective?

 

Shark chumming is not the most dangerous or potentially destructive thing that the diving industry does (my guess is that travel constitutes our greatest environmental impact). It is not the most dangerous activity that divers do (ie just diving is the more dangerous part of diving with sharks, cave diving and deep diving are much more dangerous for their aficionados).

 

It is, I think, likely that the way in which reef sharks learn to associate humans with food is an expression of normal shark behaviour. We see sharks at preferred sites where food is available even if human agencies have not been involved.

 

Not everyone has access to a rebreather or to the sites where sharks are happy to approach divers.

 

I am concerned that the established practitioners of our art are advocating privileged access: we see, increasingly on Wetpixel, an emphasis on the latest gear and the most exotic locations that excludes the non-professional. The rush to adopt each new camera is symptomatic. The rush to shoot the latest fashionable species is more so. Sharks have been fashionable targets for many years, but professional portfolios are now replete with images. Is it now safe to deny amateurs access to these magnificent animals?

 

In the absence of scientific analysis can it be right to impose arbitrary restrictions on diving? We should be exerting ourselves to achieve restrictions on the fisheries that pillage the sea, vastly exceeding the capacity of marine ecosystems to adapt to human pressure.

 

In comparison, how much harm has chumming done? How many passionate advocates of shark conservation first encountered sharks on a baited dive?

 

Tim

 

B)

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Tim

Chumming has been anecdotally proven to alter the feeding behavior of sharks. They recognize a spot and stick around... sometimes altering their migration patterns. The most apparent detrimental effect is that it gathers them for fishermen to hunt. Anecdotal evidence shows some sharks buzz just based on engine noise approaching. Can they tell the difference between fishermen and shark divers? I don't think so. Evidence in point is the taking of tiger sharks in the Aliwal MPA this year and other places.

As for image chasers, everyone wants to take shots of sharks. The 'established' professionals are actually feeling the pinch from the amateurs who have often better equipment than they do. Case in point, because of the Bahamas, Fiji, Aliwal and other shark diving ops, many Toms, Dicks and Marys have incredibly CU shots of bulls, tigers, OWT etc. This actually pushes the 'old' pros to go further into more exotic places for the special shots. You think those ops got rich because 10 pros wanted to charter them? No it's because 10,000 amateurs line up to go.

The primary reason for this thread is to consider whether getting the images ( and the purported 'demystification') through chumming is for the betterment of sharks or humans. If there were plenty of sharks around, I'd have fewer problems with it. However, seeing how much negative publicity it creates for sharks when someone gets nailed (and it's not if but when) plus the fact that even TV shows shout out where the sharks travel and their migration routes, I think it's time to show a little less concern for the image and more for the sharks. Shows like the Shark SuperHighway are wonderfully informative but it also gives the shark longliners a direct route to their prey. It's foolish to think a billion dollar industry is a bunch of fools who go around aimlessly hooking sharks. They buy shark research and can google as well as anyone else.

By altering the feeding patterns and concentrating sharks, even in 'protected' waters, it would just make sharks more vulnerable.

Obviously a more fatalistic (but perhaps more realistic) view is to say let's see them all before they are gone.

My objection to repeated chumming/baiting/feeding is purely scientific and conservation in mind. If you chum/bait/feed once every few years, I doubt there's any bad effect. However if sharks know to return to a spot annually for a feast, I would say their propensity to learn is much more developed than many think (or acknowledge publicly). If the ocean was full of sharks, this objection would hold no water at all other than an insignificant academic one. However, since the last bastions of shark populations are now becoming higher profile due to 90% of shark populations hunted, I think it's prudent to ask if it's a good idea.

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It's foolish to think a billion dollar industry is a bunch of fools who go around aimlessly hooking sharks. They buy shark research and can google as well as anyone else.

By altering the feeding patterns and concentrating sharks, even in 'protected' waters, it would just make sharks more vulnerable.

These guys will find the sharks themselves no matter what we do. If necessary they can set up their own chumming operations to find / create shark fishing areas, they do not need dive ops to do this. Clearly, the only way to protect sharks is to somehow, (I'm not clear how) limit these guys.

There are two sides to this situation those who want to kill and sell sharks, and those who want to save them.

Diving and photographing and studying them is clearly the most effective (though imperfect) way to keep them in the public eye and to sustain and increase awareness of the problem, and increase the numbers of people who want to save them. I think ultimately this is the important part of the equation, whether we chum or not.

Edited by loftus

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Hi Guys,

 

If I may be so bold as to enter this arena with a casual, but cryptic, question... :rolleyes:

 

What is the difference between teaching a shark to come to a piece of tuna and 'smile' for our pics,

and,

teaching a mimic octopus to suddenly 'fly' up into the water column and 'smile' for our pics?

 

Where do we finally draw the line of not interfering with Nature's natural order for our own pleasure/gain... :blink:

 

Ship Ahoy,

Bruce...

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These guys will find the sharks themselves no matter what we do. If necessary they can set up their own chumming operations to find / create shark fishing areas, they do not need dive ops to do this. Clearly, the only way to protect sharks is to somehow, (I'm not clear how) limit these guys.

There are two sides to this situation those who want to kill and sell sharks, and those who want to save them.

Diving and photographing and studying them is clearly the most effective (though imperfect) way to keep them in the public eye and to sustain and increase awareness of the problem, and increase the numbers of people who want to save them. I think ultimately this is the important part of the equation, whether we chum or not.

Jeff, stopping finning takes enforcement on all boats across the world, it's just not possible with such a big black market. From what I have seen so far, while the old addage of following the fishermen for the best areas was true before, it's now the other way around. Case in point, Eastern Fields in the coral sea. Bustling with sharks until it was leaked as a "pelagic" dive site and an NHK tv series came out on it. All over the world, it's now all reversed in the sense they are now getting locals to hunt sharks fin and then collecting it. All from local fishermen and dive sites.

I also question how much the diving and images from shark dives actually contribute to protection, other than the obvious economic benefits for the ops , like in the Bahamas. Historically, shark diving has done very little. On the other hand, Ron and Valerie Taylor's very gruesome clip of a finned shark surviving for days probably turned a few heads. Unfortunately, Jabba Jaws is the only likeable shark image around.

Many of the shark diving ops are in marine park areas anyhow. So by right they are protected anyhow. As many who question if chumming associates divers with food, I also question if the diving/photography aspect does protect the animals in general?

 

Where do we finally draw the line of not interfering with Nature's natural order for our own pleasure/gain... :rolleyes:

Bruce, stirring it up eh?

Well , being a scuba diver and a photographer you are already interfering with nature's order by being down there. Notice how the fish avoid you? It's not your odiferous emanations but just you. :blink:

I think it's a simple line. The mimic can be manhandled to the water column or it could be there on it's own accord. Now when you have people in chain mail, hand feeding sharks and putting them into catatonic shock for customers, I'd say that's the equivalent. I'd like to see how those guys do that with a bull or tiger or GW. :D

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Drew,

My only point is that getting as many people as possible ' on the side of sharks' is really what counts if there is ever going to be a chance of any type of international effort to save them. As you point out, there are situations where shark feeding (chumming) may be detrimental (Aliwal Shoals) and others where it may have helped (Bahamas). For me personally, my exposure to sharks through guys like Abernathy and Stuart Cove have motivated me to be more actively 'on the side of sharks' to donate money to shark preservation causes, and to lobby governments where possible with petitions etc. Obviously my contribution is puny, but then I've also got my wife and kids involved, and they talk at school etc. Building international awareness is clearly our most important task, so if chumming gets people in the water and allows them to see these animals close up etc, then I think the benefit outweighs the detrimental effect.

I think there would be even fewer people on the side of sharks if there were not expeditions and tourist attractions such as those I mention above, and the shark killing would go on regardless, and unnoticed, and without even puny voices like mine trying to make a noise.

Edited by loftus

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Drew:

 

Although anecdotal "evidence" is no evidence (it's just a story), I don't have a problem believing that chumming attracts sharks to certain places, but this is normal shark behaviour! The myth of the stupid shark is one of the difficulties we have in making people care about them. Chumming doesn't alter their behaviour, but it exploits it. The question for me is: is this exploitation harmful to the sharks? You think it is. I think that it probably isn't.

 

Whenever we enter the water we add a human element to the ecosystem that wasn't there before. We alter the underwater world by being there. Some famous divers (Cousteau comes to mind) have been notorious for manipulating the environment to their own ends, others were more circumspect (Hass is my exemplar).

 

Is this harmful? Given that we should not harm the environment, how can we mitigate our presence? How can we tell if we're doing harm?

 

My own rule of thumb is persistence: if the animals come back time after time, if the coral stays healthy, we can be reasonably sure that we are not doing (major) harm. Of course, one corollary of this is that chumming isn't such a bad thing....

 

Once upon a time I was a zoologist: baiting to attract animals for study has a long, long history. An awful lot of our knowledge has been obtained from this situation, including a lot of our knowledge of animal behaviour (look at some of Niko Tinbergen's classical ethological studies, or, heaven forbid, Konrad Lorenz's: the Hass and Cousteau of terrestrial ecology, respectively).

 

Tim

 

B)

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I prefer to have sharks than none at all. I believe that we should support any activity for which a live shark is worth more than a dead one even if as a consequence that impacts their behaviour. I think we are no longer, or can afford to be, in a position of "do no evil" but rather forced to chose the "lesser evil"?

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Tim and Jorge

I think I wasn't clear enough on my point that while my objection to chumming is purely academic, the reality is that regular chumming gathers the sharks in a specific area, which possibly makes them more VULNERABLE to being fished. It begs the question, is the PR effects and business interests enough to offset the risks to the last bastions of healthy shark populations?

I've already mentioned Aliwal , but with reports of shark fishing in the Bahamas now surfacing, I think it pertinent to question this activity even more. I can give you quite a few examples where sharks spotted in areas and dived for them (chumming or not) resulted in the sharks being hunted shortly after. Of course we should also come down hard on the illegal (or quasi legal) legal fishing of sharks in the sea. We have to accept that while shark diving 'may' have PR benefits, it also puts the sharks on in a spot on the map, making them more susceptible to being fished.

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I hate to redirect anyone away from the forum, but I think this is a video that takes the issue to heart.

 

http://hd2o.tv/flog/uncategorized/stephen-...rd-of-director/

 

DO NO HARM! It isn't that hard to live up to that philosophy. Next one is BE MINDFUL AND DON'T TOUCH anything (but sand). I can understand scientific studies luring animals/ sharks with bate for the purpose of study, but recreational? We have no God-given rights or reasons and yet we take man-given liberties. In the name of entertaining ourselves... shameful.

 

I'm with Drew on strobes too. Flash that mega-strobe in your own face a few times then decide if natural light isn't better, not for your composition, but for Nature's sake. Better yet, let someone else strobe when you're not expecting it as I figure the fish don't expect to have their eyes blown out.

 

I am adamant with my film crew about not disturbing the environment, the subjects, and I do not create any expectations of human visits. I see divers who can't even manage buoyancy much less shoot a camera. Others that drift into coral formations to 'get the shot', fins slapping in a panic to get away- with no regard. To quote Stephen Frink, "We are aliens, underwater trespassers, totally foreign and totally inefficient underwater." We have no rights or position in nature to touch, disrupt, influence, or alter anything in that environment. Something as trivial as satisfying our morbid human curiosity can damage the delicate balance of the surrounding ocean community. Pavlow's classical conditioning of learned behavior means they will respond to food. Sharks by nature will become more aggressive in anticipation. Evident in a prior post.

 

Accepted human behavior is to touch and feel everything. It’s human to scientifically explore our world to expand our knowledge of space, earth and even oceanic frontiers. That kind of beneficial scientific inquiry has been valuable to mankind. However UN-humane contamination of space and earth has yet to prove to Mankind that this behavior must be curtailed. Today, protecting and preserving the precious, albeit strained and threatened underwater environment must become a higher priority for nations, explorers, adventurers and especially recreational/ casual visitors.

 

But your in a WetPixel forum, so you already knew that!

 

Protect + Preserve, Do no harm,

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We have no rights or position in nature to touch, disrupt, influence, or alter anything in that environment.

Of course we do. It is inherent that every animal does this as a matter of course. Who says nature didn't intend man to dive underwater?

 

Yours is an extreme position which you are entitled to but which is only arbitrary. There is a vast difference between "do no harm" and "touch nothing" and there is no ethical argument for equating the two. If we touched nothing then we'd starve to death.

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I can understand scientific studies luring animals/ sharks with bate for the purpose of study, but recreational? We have no God-given rights or reasons and yet we take man-given liberties. In the name of entertaining ourselves... shameful.

I dive and photograph for my own entertainment. To somehow automatically equate human interaction with animals and/ or the environment as harmful or unethical is absurd in my opinion. Drew has presented some very cogent arguments as to why such interactions could be harmful in some situations, but to imply that this is always 'shameful' in the absence of harm to the animals is absurd.

As Craig said equating 'do no harm' and 'touch nothing' or interact with nothing has no ethical justification.

Edited by loftus

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I hate to redirect anyone away from the forum, but I think this is a video that takes the issue to heart.

I'll let Stephen answer for himself whether he's being taken out of context. You do know you can embed the video in the forums?

 

I can understand scientific studies luring animals/ sharks with bate for the purpose of study, but recreational? We have no God-given rights or reasons and yet we take man-given liberties. In the name of entertaining ourselves... shameful.

Well, seeing how video of natural predation are much more sort after, it would be interesting to compare the veracity of observed behavior when chummed vs natural feeding behavior. As for rights, I pretty much think that being alive gives you a right to go and do whatever you want. It's only when it affects other people will you get clobbered and lynched, but that's why we have societal rules as well. :rolleyes:

 

Let's just face facts. Being image chasers, we have to interact. Even in feeding frenzies, the predators and prey know you are there. In fact, sometimes the predators are put off by human presence. Now if it were possible to shoot with a 600mm lens from far away, I'd do it in a flash. No deco to worry about and this cold temperature business is really ridiculous.

I liken the coral reef to the plains of the serengetti and the water holes. Lots of different animals interacting and wary of each other but giving enough distance, just go about their own business. Ever seen the white tip sharks hunt at night, say in Cocos? Lights or not, they still do their thing. And probably the lights help them a little bit too.:blink:

Anyhow, going back on topic, interaction with actions isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, the number of shark hunting increasing in 'protected' areas by known shark dives, it does raise questions on such practices.

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