Conservation physiology

30 May 2019 - By: Kim Birnie-Gauvi

Cage diving is costly, not for humans, but for white sharks

Huveneers C, Watanabe YY, Payne NL, et al. 2018. Interacting with wildlife tourism increases activity of white sharks. Conservation Physiology, 6(1), coy019.

Wildlife tourism is expanding rapidly within the tourist industry, due in part to a growing interest in connecting with nature, but also to new approaches that allow humans to come into very near contact with wildlife. One such activity is cage diving, which allows close encounters with white sharks, popularly known for their large size and elusive nature. Cage diving requires the use of olfactory, visual, and auditory attractants to bring sharks within close proximity. But how do these activities affect the iconic great whites? A recent study investigated just that, using high-frequency tree-axis acceleration loggers deployed on 10 white sharks interacting with cage diving around Neptune Island, Australia. The results showed that the overall dynamic body acceleration — considered a proxy for metabolic rate — was 61% higher during interactions with cage-diving operators. This suggests that interacting with cage -divers is costly for white sharks compared to normal behaviour, and calls for a better appreciation of the effects of frequent shark-tourism interactions to fully understand the impact of wildlife tourism on the fitness of this iconic species.

Kim Birnie-Gauvi, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark

Category: Conservation Physiology
Kim Birnie

Kim Birnie-Gauvi

Kim is currently a PhD Candidate at the Technical University of Denmark, in the Section for Freshwater Fisheries and Ecology, where she studies the physiological basis of migration success and timing in diadromous fish species. She also belongs to the AMBER project (Adaptive Management of Barriers in European Rivers), where she investigates the effects of barriers and mitigation methods on fish density, movement and populations. She maintains broad interests in everything aquatic, but the underlying physiological mechanisms of ecological phenomena remain her “favorite” field of research.