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UC Santa Barbara Researcher Studies How Diving With Sharks Impacts Shark Populations

Photo by Darcy Bradley
Reef sharks on Palmyra atoll inspect the baited remote underwater video system set up by researchers

A UC Santa Barbara researcher has been studying how scuba diving with sharks – which has become a multi-million-dollar global tourism industry -- impacts the shark population. The findings were surprising.

With a quarter of shark species at risk of extinction, Darcy Bradley, a postdoctoral researcher with the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UCSB, wanted to know if scuba diving influences the behavior and the abundance of shark populations.

“So, our question very simply was:  Do sharks avoid areas that are frequented by scuba divers?” she said.

Bradley and her team went to Palmyra, a remote atoll in the central Pacific Ocean where shark populations are healthy because there’s no fishing. However, research diving is allowed. After reviewing 80 hours of underwater footage, they concluded there are no long-term impacts.

“Well-regulated scuba diving is not necessarily going to undermine shark conservation goals,” she said.

Bradley said by discouraging fishing, diving tourism can help conserve sharks.