The Incident – A very dangerous Interaction
A diver in off the coast of Durban in South Africa had a dangerous interaction with an oceanic black tip.
Elton Polly had his GoPro mounted to , I assume, his mask when the shark rammed him in the head!
The oceanic black tip shark is seen avoiding one diver, slowly approaching Polly then suddenly and violently ramming him. His mask was knocked off and his regulator dropped from his mouth but otherwise he was unharmed.
Behavioral Affects of Baiting
According to this National Geographic article posted in October 2016 there are some behavioral changes in sharks due to baiting.
“Dive tourism, which aims to please (meaning they want to make money) puts food in the water, which results in increased visitations from the sharks in that area. In some species, this leads to higher population numbers in the area.”
Feeding can over time eliminate some of the fear sharks have of humans and associate humans with free food. This can not only incite dangerous interactions with the human that gets “associated” with food, but also for sharks when attacks happen.
Besides the short term risk of attack there are also possible negative impacts on the entire ecosystem. If we alter shark feeding behavior it could change the entire food web, the natural order of things.
For example in shallow water it has been found that sharks respond to boats engines and appear near the boats even before the bait hits the water. This association with humans and food , in my opinion, is a dangerous practice.
Just as we have warnings not to feed pigeons, ducks and other animals so not to attract them as a nuisance , we should follow suit with these larger apex predators.
Eco-Tourism Doing Some Good
Brian Skerry, a National Geographic photographer, has seen ecotourism have some positive impacts. He states that when he started diving decades ago that no one wanted to see sharks. With cage diving bringing interest to sharks, there are now thousands of shark “ambassadors”. These ambassadors are spreading the word about conservation.
The problem with these dangerous interactions is that it will only take one high profile death due to cage diving can hurt thousands of sharks world wide.
George Burgess of the Florida Program for Shark Research argues that “the potential for an increase of bites will ultimately have a negative impact.”
We will have to wait and see what and if these dangerous interactions cause any long term damage but for now there is money to be made in shark baiting.