Article

"I Would Die to See One": A Study to Evaluate Safety Knowledge, Attitude, and Behavior Among Shark Scuba Divers

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Abstract

Shark diving tourism is an activity that can contribute significantly to coastal economies, while also offering tremendous help to shark conservation efforts. Nevertheless, like any form of wildlife-based tourism, shark diving poses management challenges revolving around ethical and safety considerations. Safety in shark diving normally focuses on operational self-efficacy and adherence to shark diving codes of conduct to prevent incidents such as shark bites and to minimize ecological harm. However, safety issues in shark diving can arise from personal choices to exceed standard certification limits. Any detrimental results are capable of casting doubts on the sustainability of shark diving, thus jeopardizing its future as well as shark conservation. This study addressed compliance with shark diving codes of conduct and standard diving safety by examining the knowledge, attitude, and behavior of people who engage in free scuba diving with predatory sharks. The research made use of mixed methods of data collection, including interviews with shark divers at two popular shark diving destinations in Southeast Africa (n = 86) and an online questionnaire survey among shark divers (n = 89). The results showed that divers had positive attitudes towards sharks and shark diving. However, a notable proportion declared that they had exceeded certification limits and broken codes of conduct during shark diving. In particular, diving experience and being a professional diver were correlated significantly with poor safety attitudes and behavior. The results highlight the need to create an understanding among scuba divers of the connection between shark diving safety and conservation, including the negative implications of safety breaches, whether big or small, for the future of shark diving tourism and of sharks.

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... Recently, the focus has shifted to colder-water diving which is increasingly popular. Areas of study have included subtropical or temperate sites such as the Mediterranean Sea and South Africa [7], [8]. With increasing latitude, however, research on diving tourism remains proportionally scanty compared with lower latitudes, reflecting also the high niche activity nature of coldwater diving [9]. ...
Conference Paper
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Wildlife tourism is often promoted as an activity which supports conservation by enhancing environmental knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour through interpretative messaging and personal experiences with wildlife. Despite these potential linkages, evidence to support such claims is limited. In order for wildlife tourism operators to build a motivated constituency supporting conservation, elements of the tour which contribute to positive attitudes and environmental behaviour must be identified. This study investigated the attitudes and environmental behaviour of 136 wildlife tourists following a white shark cage-dive experience in South Australia. Responses to an online survey revealed a significant increase in participation for seven of the eight conservation-related behaviours explored, and a positive shift in participants’ understanding, awareness, attitudes, and concern for sharks following the tour. Results suggest that emotional engagement during the tour is associated with enhancing participants’ knowledge and attitude towards sharks. Recommendations for complementing the emotional response to viewing wildlife, with interpretative communication, are discussed.
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In recent decades, public interest in apex predators has led to the creation and expansion of predator-focused wildlife tourism. As wildlife tourism has become an increasing topic of study for both social and biological scientists, researchers have debated whether these activities serve conservation goals by providing non-con-sumptive values for wildlife. Discussion of predator tourism requires additional recognition of predator-specific biological and ecological characteristics, consideration of human safety concerns, and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict. By reviewing tourism activities centered on both aquatic and terrestrial predators from diverse taxa (sharks, crocodiles, and big cats), we evaluate the potential benefits and conservation challenges associated with predator tourism. Our review suggests that positive conservation outcomes are possible, but not assured given historical, cultural, and ecological complexities. We explore some of the factors which determine whether tourism contributes to conservation outcomes, including (1) effective protection of animals and habitats, (2) avoidance and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, (3) quality of associated educational interpretation and outreach, (4) collaboration with local stakeholders, and (5) use of generated funds to advance conservation goals. Our findings suggest tourism is most likely to support predator conservation and/or recovery when the industry has both public and political support and under conditions of effective regulation focused on management , monitoring and enforcement by local, national, and international bodies.
Chapter
Historically sharks have been seen either as a source of income through harvesting, or as a nuisance and danger. The economic value of sharks has traditionally been measured as the total value of sharks caught for liver oil, fins, or meat for consumption. Sharks have also been killed to near extinction in cases where they were seen as a threat to fisheries on other species. This is illustrated by the mass extermination of Basking Sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) in British Columbia. They were seen as a nuisance to fishermen as they got entangled in gill nets during the salmon fishing season. However with the development of the SCUBA diving industry, and ecotourism in general, increased awareness of the role sharks play in marine ecosystems has resulted in changes in how they are perceived and utilized. Despite an ongoing harvest of sharks such as the North Pacific Spiny Dogfish (Squalus suckleyi), sharks now generate economic value through SCUBA diving enthusiasts who travel the globe to see, swim with, and photograph them. The use of digital cameras and other digital media has brought sharks into households around the world and increased awareness of the conservation issues facing many species. This renewed appreciation has led to a better understanding of sharks by the public, resulting in advocates calling for better protections and conservation. In particular, a growing part of the SCUBA diving community wants to contribute to conservation and research projects, which has led to participation in citizen science projects. These projects provide scientific data but also gain ground as ecotourism activities, thus adding to both economic value of tourism and conservation efforts.
Article
In the Mid-Atlantic Azores, the emergence of a seasonal ecotourism shark diving industry strongly contrasts with a North Atlantic shark fishery for regional, national and foreign fleets. Shark diving may provide an economic alternative to fishing, promoting an ecological and economical sustainable use of these animals, favouring their conservation. Understanding socio-economic aspects of this new Mid-Atlantic industry is the first step towards its sustainability and ultimately shark conservation. Data were collected by means of questionnaire designed to solicit information on shark divers’ knowledge, socio-economic status, expenditures and expectations, conducted between July and August 2014 on Pico and Faial Islands, to 144 divers. The majority of respondents were male (71%), between 25 and 40 years (41%), mainly from Germany, Holland and Austria, and 44% visited the Azores purposely to dive with sharks. On average, 2.6 sharks were seen per dive and 97% of respondents did not perceive any form of shark aggression or threat. The estimated generated income of shark diving in 2014 for the Azores amounts to 1,983.347 € (around US$2,244.890). Such an amount may easily increase following the current rates of expansion for (eco)tourism in the Azores and the infancy of the local shark diving activity. Finally, it is worth saying that nearly 70% of participants were willing to pay an extra amount until 60€ to ensure that shark diving remains an option and more than half (53%) would like to see that amount invested in conservation.
Article
Understanding socio-economic aspects of the diving industry at Sodwana Bay, including data on participant motivation and expenditure, is crucial for the effective management of the St Lucia and Maputaland marine protected areas, South Africa. Between July 2011 and July 2012 a total of 59 553 dives was conducted by 15 780 divers (95% CI = 15 295–16 277). Data were collected by means of the administration of a semi-structured survey questionnaire to 750 dive participants. Participant responses indicated that the direct value of diving to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park was R75 484 784 (95% CI = R73 071 709–R78 682 514). A total of 1 000 Monte Carlo simulations was used to estimate confidence intervals. The majority of dives at Sodwana were on coral-covered sandstone reefs (95.2%), with shark diving accounting for only 4.8% of dives. Although sharks were not the primary attraction for divers to visit Sodwana, 84.2% of respondents stated that they were interested in shark diving and that more opportunities to dive with sharks would encourage them to revisit Sodwana more often. Attaching an economic value to sharks as a dive attraction to Sodwana and highlighting their potential for the growth of the dive industry may act as leverage for their protection against fishing within iSimangaliso.
Article
Guidelines and a national code of conduct were implemented to manage scuba diving tourism with the critically endangered grey nurse shark (Carcharias taurus) along the Australian east coast. The demographics of diving tourists, swimming behaviour of grey nurse sharks at various life-history stages and compliance of divers to the guidelines/code of conduct were simultaneously assessed during diver–shark interactions at four sites from March 2011 to February 2012. Milling was the most frequent swimming behaviour observed and no significant changes occurred with the number of divers or distance to sharks. Divers exhibited 100% compliance with all guidelines investigated. Satisfactory compliance may have been attributable to guideline clarity, the ease of establishing diver–shark interactions, stakeholder involvement in management processes and diver perceptions of sharks. Similar sampling of group and individual shark behaviour should be done to further enhance the understanding of the beneficial and adverse impacts of this marine wildlife tourism sector.
Article
The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between recreation specialization and marine based environmental behaviors among SCUBA divers. Additionally, the study compared relationships with various types of environ-mental behaviors employing an overall multiple-item index and individual di-mensions of recreation specialization (behavioral, cognitive and affective). Data {n = 370) were collected (May-September 2002) in the St. Petersburg/Sarasota region of southwest Florida, USA. Measures of environmental behaviors (16 items) and recreation specialization (17 items) were adapted from the litera-ture. This study identified a positive association between the level of speciali-zation and marine based environmental behaviors; as specialization in SCUBA diving increased, environmentally responsible behaviors also increased. In ad-dition, individual specialization dimensions revealed more explanatory detail for the three distinct behavioral dimensions. Implications for further research and marine resource management are discussed.
Article
Understanding socio-economic aspects of the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier diving industry, including information on participant expectations, experiences and expenditure, is necessary for the effective management of the Aliwal Shoal Marine Protected Area on the east coast of South Africa. Between January and December 2007, a total of 2 133 tiger shark dives was conducted by 1 065 divers (95% CI = 946-1 198). Data were collected by means of the administration of a semi-structured survey questionnaire to 197 (18.6%) dive participants. Respondents indicated that the direct value of tiger shark diving to the Aliwal Shoal region was R12 405 274 (95% CI = R10 777 324-14 228 541). A total of 1 000 Monte Carlo simulations was used to estimate confidence intervals. On a ranking from one (poor) to five (excellent), the average participant response to overall quality of dive and standard of dive operator was 4.6 and 4.7 respectively. The majority of divers (98.0%) observed a tiger shark, at an average of four per dive. Although tiger sharks approached to an average distance of 1.6 m from divers, the majority (95.9%) felt safe and enjoyed the experience. The majority of interviewees (88.5%) supported the use of chumming for a closer 'tiger shark experience'.
Article
Research on the development of marine wildlife tourism has tended to focus on the growth and economic importance of the whale-watching industry and its management via self-regulation. However, a number of other species are also utilized as attractions by the marine wildlife tourism industry. There has been increased targeting of a range of, potentially aggressive, shark species as attractions. Areas, such as South Africa [the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)], Florida and the Caribbean [Tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), Bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas), and Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi)] have developed shark-based tourism. This has raised numerous ethical objections, both anthropocentric and biocentric in nature, leading to the intervention by the state in the form of various regulatory frameworks. This article utilizes a case study approach to assess the issues that surround the introduction of state regulation in South Africa and Florida in order to manage the shark-based tourism located there. The article highlights the complex issues facing those tasked with implementing state regulatory frameworks. It concludes that the difficult task of attempting to integrate issues of stakeholder involvement, enforcement, and the balancing of anthropocentric and biocentric concerns results in any framework only being able to be seen as a "best fit" solution for managing shark-based tourism.
Article
The Shark Reef Marine Reserve in Fiji is an ecotourism project designed to protect a small reef patch and its fauna while preserving the livelihood of local communities. It involves the local communities by using a participatory business planning approach to Marine Protected Area management, generating income through diver user fees, distributed to the local villages that have exchanged their traditional fishing rights in the marine reserve for this new source of income. The Shark Reef Marine Reserve is a self-sustaining and profitable project, and is an example of a privately initiated, bottom-up approach, which includes all relevant stakeholders in an area where marine rights are finely subdivided into small units.
Article
Understanding recreational aspects of the tourism industry developing around the KwaZulu-Natal sardine run is important for the protection and sustainability of the Pondoland Marine Protected Area (MPA), on the south-east coast of South Africa. Between June and July 2007, a total of 128 people visited this area to experience the sardine run using boat-based access. An onsite questionnaire survey of 108 (84.4%) participants at Port St Johns and Mbotyi indicated that the direct value of their visit was around R5.47 million (95% CI = R5.14–5.82 million). Although the benefits of the sardine run tourism industry extend throughout the South African economy, local indigenous communities receive little direct benefit. Almost half of all sardine run participants, however, showed a willingness to contribute R500 or more towards a community development programme. On a ranking from one (poor) to five (excellent), the average participant's response to overall quality of the experience and quality of the dive charter was 3.9 and 4.4, respectively. Over a quarter (27%) of participants never saw a sardine during their visit, despite the fact that their trip was marketed as ‘the sardine run’, so participant experiences often did not meet with expectations. The sardine run within the Pondoland MPA is currently an undermarketed and underexploited resource.