The growing success of shark ecotourism sometimes leads to mass benefits and behavioural drifts that need to be regulated. Countries have already taken action by imposing codes of conduct (e.g. Australia, South Africa, Seychelles, etc.) or by prohibiting feeding. In the US, a bill was introduced on June 23, 2016 in Congress to ban the feeding of sharks in US waters (Bill S.3099 sec. 104 Prohibition on shark feeding), which will soon be adopted. These codes and laws are in line with the “animal feeding prohibition” that is required in zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, and any place where the public is in contact with wildlife.
These laws are obviously useful, but we believe that divers and operators could voluntarily adopt rules enabling them to practice a playful and educational activity while respecting the environment in which it is practiced.
Thus, in the same spirit as the International Charter of the Responsible Diver, and taking into account our respective experiences, we propose hereafter an international charter of responsible ecotourism-shark. This charter is especially aimed at operators, but divers will support it by choosing the operators who adhere to it. The general principles of this charter are as follows:
1) The playful approach of Nature must not be at the expense of it;
2) Shark-based ecotourism should not be transformed into a “profit industry” by offering sub-aquatic shows with “domesticated” sharks;
3) Avoid mass provision because too many tourists kill ecotourism (decreased quality of experience and security measures more difficult to implement);
4) Wait patiently for the sharks to come to the divers; the sharks are curious, let them initiate the encounter!
The International Charter of Responsible Shark Ecotourisme