Our project also aimed to investigate, by means of a network of stationary cameras, the effect of provisioning on the abundance, movements and short-term residency (over hours and days) of lemon sharks. During two field seasons (in November 2013 and July 2014), we deployed four modified GoPro cameras, each lasting nearly seven hours, along the fore reef (reef slope) of Moorea. Some were in areas where provisioning occurs and others in sectors where no diving activity takes place. That’s almost 30 hours of recording every day, which for us meant hundreds of hours of scanning videos and incorporating the information from them into a database.
After spending months extracting data, we were ready to start ‘playing’ with them and the results are really exciting! Lemon sharks tend to gather in the vicinity of the provisioning site early in the morning, waiting patiently for the divers. Then when there is no more diving activity late in the morning, they quickly spread out. Interestingly, provisioning tends not to have an impact on smaller shark species, such as blacktip reef sharks Carcharhinus melanopterus. Do large lemon sharks scare them? Maybe! When viewing videos, we also collected important information about the behaviour and movements of critically endangered hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata.
Thanks to the Save Our Seas Foundation, we will probably learn a lot more about the impact of shark-diving activities on the behaviour of sharks and about how they influence the behaviour of other species, including smaller sharks and other reef fish.