Ocean News

Feeding Sharks, Saving Mantas & Stopping the Soup

5th January 2011

Scientific discussion on the controversial topic of shark feeding, an interview with Guy Stevens about saving manta rays in the Maldives, and Shark Truth drawing attention to finning in Vancouver’s Chinese community.

Juerg Brunnschweiler, who’s been studying bull sharks in Fiji for several years, has posted on the perenially controversial subject of shark feeding in support of marine tourism. As Juerg notes, the debate about the effects and consequences of shark baiting has been largely based on inference and anecdotes, with very little in the way of hard scientific data. That’s changed in recent years with the publication of several scientific studies on the subject (full text for subscribers only, but the abstracts are good summaries), the most recent of which, published last month, found no evidence to support the idea that feeding sharks (in this case, Caribbean reef sharks) changes their behaviour in a way that would impact their ecological role. But there is a lack of scientific consensus, and Juerg also looks critically at another study, this one focused on sicklefin lemon sharks in the South Pacific. He’s invited readers of the blog to comment on the subject, and it will be interesting to see how inquiries into this area develop.

As subscribers to our newsletter will already know, we’ve interviewed project leader Guy Stevens about his work with manta rays in the Maldives. Guy drew attention to the greatest threat to mantas today, which are commercial fisheries driven by a massive demand for manta and mobula gill-rakers in China, where they are used in traditional medicine. Photographer Thomas P. Peschak documented a gill-raker fishery in Sri Lanka earlier on his blog.

Lastly, SOSF-sponsored Shark Truth has been hard at work raising awareness about shark finning in Vancouver’s Chinese community, targeting wedding couples as part of their "Stop the Soup" campaign. Vivian Kwong, who heads up the project, has posted a year-end roundup of the attention the campaign has been getting from the media, as well as write-ups of some of their outreach work. Head over to the Shark Truth project page for more info.