The experience of other shark tourism operations shows that sharks readily learn to associate boats with food. In the Caribbean, shark tour operators have for years conducted circus-like shows with black-tip and reef sharks, handing them fish. "The boat handlers even gun their engines to 'call in their babies' upon arrival at the dive sites," says Burgess. Years after the tourist boats have moved on to other sites, the sharks continue to react to boat engines-which can prevent other divers and water sports enthusiasts using the areas.
Sarah Fowler of the Shark Trust in Newbury, Berkshire, argues that tourism can be harnessed to promote the conservation of sharks. "Done the right way, shark-dive tourism is very important for the future of sharks," she says. But just one fatal great white attack on a tourist could undermine conservationists' efforts, re-establishing the image of the sharks as cold-blooded killers and playing into the hands of those who would wish to slaughter them.
The South African government is aware of the problem, and in August imposed a temporary moratorium on cage diving in the Dyer Island channel. But Ferreira doubts that regulations proposed to control shark tourism will curb the worst excesses. "The authorities will continue to put commercial ventures first," he says.
New Scientist magazine, issue 24th October, p.4
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