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

Neil Hammerschlag, Austin J. Gallagher, Julia Wester, Jiangang Luo, Jerald S Ault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

82 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There has been considerable debate over the past decade with respect to wildlife provisioning, especially resultant behavioural changes that may impact the ecological function of an apex predator. The controversy is exemplified by the shark diving industry, where major criticisms based on inference, anecdote and opinion stem from concerns of potential behaviourally mediated ecosystem effects because of ecotourism provisioning (aka'chumming' or feeding). 2.There is a general lack of empirical evidence to refute or support associated claims. The few studies that have investigated the behavioural impacts of shark provisioning ecotourism have generated conflicting conclusions, where the confidence in such results may suffer from a narrow spatial and temporal focus given the highly mobile nature of these predators. There is need for studies that examine the potential behavioural consequences of provisioning over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. 3.To advance this debate, we conducted the first satellite telemetry study and movement analysis to explicitly examine the long-range migrations and habitat utilization of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) originating in the Bahamas and Florida, two areas that differ significantly with regards to the presence/absence of provisioning ecotourism. 4.Satellite telemetry data rejected the behaviourally mediated effects of provisioning ecotourism at large spatial and temporal scales. In contrast, to the restricted activity space and movement that were hypothesized, geolocation data evidenced previously unknown long-distance migrations and habitat use for both tiger shark populations closely associated with areas of high biological productivity in the Gulf Stream and subtropical western Atlantic Ocean. We speculate that these areas are likely critically important for G. cuvier feeding forays and parturition. 5.We concluded that, in the light of potential conservation and public awareness benefits of ecotourism provisioning, this practice should not be dismissed out of hand by managers. Given the pressing need for improved understanding of the functional ecology of apex predators relative to human disturbance, empirical studies of different species sensitivities to disturbance should be used to guide best-practice ecotourism policies that maximize conservation goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)567-576
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

Fingerprint

ecotourism
ecological impact
Galeocerdo cuvier
predator
shark
predators
telemetry
sharks
Gulf Stream
childbirth
disturbance
parturition
Bahamas
social benefit
ecological function
diving
habitats
habitat use
Atlantic Ocean
wildlife

Keywords

  • Feeding
  • Migration
  • Movement
  • Optimal foraging
  • Residency patterns
  • Satellite tagging
  • Site fidelity
  • Tiger shark
  • Tourism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Don't bite the hand that feeds : Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator. / Hammerschlag, Neil; Gallagher, Austin J.; Wester, Julia; Luo, Jiangang; Ault, Jerald S.

In: Functional Ecology, Vol. 26, No. 3, 01.06.2012, p. 567-576.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{2bf76b8b72c0432094810f3dd80908e7,
title = "Don't bite the hand that feeds: Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator",
abstract = "There has been considerable debate over the past decade with respect to wildlife provisioning, especially resultant behavioural changes that may impact the ecological function of an apex predator. The controversy is exemplified by the shark diving industry, where major criticisms based on inference, anecdote and opinion stem from concerns of potential behaviourally mediated ecosystem effects because of ecotourism provisioning (aka'chumming' or feeding). 2.There is a general lack of empirical evidence to refute or support associated claims. The few studies that have investigated the behavioural impacts of shark provisioning ecotourism have generated conflicting conclusions, where the confidence in such results may suffer from a narrow spatial and temporal focus given the highly mobile nature of these predators. There is need for studies that examine the potential behavioural consequences of provisioning over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. 3.To advance this debate, we conducted the first satellite telemetry study and movement analysis to explicitly examine the long-range migrations and habitat utilization of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) originating in the Bahamas and Florida, two areas that differ significantly with regards to the presence/absence of provisioning ecotourism. 4.Satellite telemetry data rejected the behaviourally mediated effects of provisioning ecotourism at large spatial and temporal scales. In contrast, to the restricted activity space and movement that were hypothesized, geolocation data evidenced previously unknown long-distance migrations and habitat use for both tiger shark populations closely associated with areas of high biological productivity in the Gulf Stream and subtropical western Atlantic Ocean. We speculate that these areas are likely critically important for G. cuvier feeding forays and parturition. 5.We concluded that, in the light of potential conservation and public awareness benefits of ecotourism provisioning, this practice should not be dismissed out of hand by managers. Given the pressing need for improved understanding of the functional ecology of apex predators relative to human disturbance, empirical studies of different species sensitivities to disturbance should be used to guide best-practice ecotourism policies that maximize conservation goals.",
keywords = "Feeding, Migration, Movement, Optimal foraging, Residency patterns, Satellite tagging, Site fidelity, Tiger shark, Tourism",
author = "Neil Hammerschlag and Gallagher, {Austin J.} and Julia Wester and Jiangang Luo and Ault, {Jerald S}",
year = "2012",
month = "6",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x",
language = "English",
volume = "26",
pages = "567--576",
journal = "Functional Ecology",
issn = "0269-8463",
publisher = "Wiley-Blackwell",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Don't bite the hand that feeds

T2 - Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator

AU - Hammerschlag, Neil

AU - Gallagher, Austin J.

AU - Wester, Julia

AU - Luo, Jiangang

AU - Ault, Jerald S

PY - 2012/6/1

Y1 - 2012/6/1

N2 - There has been considerable debate over the past decade with respect to wildlife provisioning, especially resultant behavioural changes that may impact the ecological function of an apex predator. The controversy is exemplified by the shark diving industry, where major criticisms based on inference, anecdote and opinion stem from concerns of potential behaviourally mediated ecosystem effects because of ecotourism provisioning (aka'chumming' or feeding). 2.There is a general lack of empirical evidence to refute or support associated claims. The few studies that have investigated the behavioural impacts of shark provisioning ecotourism have generated conflicting conclusions, where the confidence in such results may suffer from a narrow spatial and temporal focus given the highly mobile nature of these predators. There is need for studies that examine the potential behavioural consequences of provisioning over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. 3.To advance this debate, we conducted the first satellite telemetry study and movement analysis to explicitly examine the long-range migrations and habitat utilization of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) originating in the Bahamas and Florida, two areas that differ significantly with regards to the presence/absence of provisioning ecotourism. 4.Satellite telemetry data rejected the behaviourally mediated effects of provisioning ecotourism at large spatial and temporal scales. In contrast, to the restricted activity space and movement that were hypothesized, geolocation data evidenced previously unknown long-distance migrations and habitat use for both tiger shark populations closely associated with areas of high biological productivity in the Gulf Stream and subtropical western Atlantic Ocean. We speculate that these areas are likely critically important for G. cuvier feeding forays and parturition. 5.We concluded that, in the light of potential conservation and public awareness benefits of ecotourism provisioning, this practice should not be dismissed out of hand by managers. Given the pressing need for improved understanding of the functional ecology of apex predators relative to human disturbance, empirical studies of different species sensitivities to disturbance should be used to guide best-practice ecotourism policies that maximize conservation goals.

AB - There has been considerable debate over the past decade with respect to wildlife provisioning, especially resultant behavioural changes that may impact the ecological function of an apex predator. The controversy is exemplified by the shark diving industry, where major criticisms based on inference, anecdote and opinion stem from concerns of potential behaviourally mediated ecosystem effects because of ecotourism provisioning (aka'chumming' or feeding). 2.There is a general lack of empirical evidence to refute or support associated claims. The few studies that have investigated the behavioural impacts of shark provisioning ecotourism have generated conflicting conclusions, where the confidence in such results may suffer from a narrow spatial and temporal focus given the highly mobile nature of these predators. There is need for studies that examine the potential behavioural consequences of provisioning over ecologically relevant spatial and temporal scales. 3.To advance this debate, we conducted the first satellite telemetry study and movement analysis to explicitly examine the long-range migrations and habitat utilization of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) originating in the Bahamas and Florida, two areas that differ significantly with regards to the presence/absence of provisioning ecotourism. 4.Satellite telemetry data rejected the behaviourally mediated effects of provisioning ecotourism at large spatial and temporal scales. In contrast, to the restricted activity space and movement that were hypothesized, geolocation data evidenced previously unknown long-distance migrations and habitat use for both tiger shark populations closely associated with areas of high biological productivity in the Gulf Stream and subtropical western Atlantic Ocean. We speculate that these areas are likely critically important for G. cuvier feeding forays and parturition. 5.We concluded that, in the light of potential conservation and public awareness benefits of ecotourism provisioning, this practice should not be dismissed out of hand by managers. Given the pressing need for improved understanding of the functional ecology of apex predators relative to human disturbance, empirical studies of different species sensitivities to disturbance should be used to guide best-practice ecotourism policies that maximize conservation goals.

KW - Feeding

KW - Migration

KW - Movement

KW - Optimal foraging

KW - Residency patterns

KW - Satellite tagging

KW - Site fidelity

KW - Tiger shark

KW - Tourism

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84861229586&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84861229586&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x

DO - 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2012.01973.x

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:84861229586

VL - 26

SP - 567

EP - 576

JO - Functional Ecology

JF - Functional Ecology

SN - 0269-8463

IS - 3

ER -