White sharks and tourism: is it a bad choice?



by LORENZO CIOTTI

White sharks and tourism: is it a bad choice?

The fascination of white sharks drives many tourists to go to places where they can be spotted and observed underwater. The most popular places for shark tourism are generally: Seal Island in South Africa, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Guadalupe Island in Mexico, the Neptune Islands in Australia and Stewart Island in New Zealand.

There are several methods of approach. It is possible to observe the sharks from the boat thanks to the chumming operations of the sea with blood and organic materials of sharks' usual prey, in order to attract the shark towards the boat.

Another method is to tie a rope to the boat where the shape of a seal is hooked to the other end: the shark sees the shape and attacks it from below by jumping out of the water, to the delight of the tourists' cameras . The observation can also be done in the water thanks to the aid of metal cages, always after grazing the surrounding sea.

Observation and interaction with great white sharks outside the cage is done only by a few brave experts given the dangerous nature of the animal. There is currently an ongoing controversy among insiders on the opportunity to attract sharks with organic materials, as some researchers argue that over time sharks could associate humans with the presence of baits and blood, with relative danger for swimmers. However, tour operators point out that this presumed association is yet to be proven, as the grazing areas are already hunting areas for sharks.

Furthermore, the emphasis is placed on the importance of tourism for the protection of the shark: in fact it would sensitize public opinion on the need to protect the white shark and would push the local inhabitants to protect the tourist areas, in order to safeguard the not indifferent induced economic due to the presence of these sharks.

This does not mean that in some states, such as Alabama, baiting is prohibited by law, in order to protect swimmers. It is among the sharks judged to be dangerous to humans, along with whitetip shark, tiger shark and bull shark and is often referred to as the maneater.

In fact, the white shark is dangerous for humans if it comes into contact with it, given its lethal bite and its habit of attacking fur seals, seals and sea lions near the surface, even if these attacks are often exploratory bites or they could be due to the resemblance that the shape of a surfer lying on the board has, seen from below, compared to that of the aforementioned marine mammals.

However, the white shark is not a danger in absolute terms, since excluding the geographical areas in which it is known to be present in high concentrations, the probability of encountering a white shark during a normal recreational activity is extremely low.