Impacts of provisioning

In recent decades marine wildlife tourism showed a dramatic growth (Dobson 2006) and shark tourism generates millions of dollars annually worldwide (Topelko & Dearden 2005). Between 1987 – 2007 the Bahamas alone offered over 1 million shark-diver interactions (Gallagher & Hammerschlag 2011) and shark provisioning has become increasingly popular (Brunnschweiler & Barnett 2013). Since its inception in 1990 the BBFS has encountered great hammerhead sharks, Sphyrna mokarran, at various sites around South Bimini and multi-year observations found that they show periodic high site fidelity at several locations surrounding the Bimini Islands (O’Connell et al. 2015). This offers a unique opportunity to analyse the effects of provisioning on the great hammerhead sharks in the Bahamas. Our project at the Bimini Biological Field Station (BBFS) in collaboration with the Neal Watson’s Bimini SCUBA center aims to analyse the possible effects of food provisioning on small-scale movements and the behavioural ecology of the great hammerhead shark Sphyrna mokarran on Bimini, Bahamas.


Brunnschweiler JM and Barnett A. (2013). Opportunisitc visitors: long-term behavioural response of bull sharks to food provisioning in Fiji. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058522

Dobson J. (2006). Sharks, wildlife tourism, and state regulation. Tourism Mar Environ 3: 15 – 23

Gallagher AJ and Hammerschlag N. (2011). Global shark currency: the distribution and frequency, and socio-economics of shark ecotourism. Current Issues in Tourism 14: 797 – 812

O’Connell CP, Hyun SY, Gruber SH and He P. (2015). The use of permanent magnets to reduce elasmobranch encounter with a simulated beach net. 2. The great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran). Endangered Species research 26: 243 – 256

Topelko KN and Dearden P. (2005). The shark watching industry and its potential contribution to shark conservation. J Ecotourism 4: 108 – 121


a) Movement patterns
By collecting detailed data on the presence of great hammerheads at feeding sites to supplement our acoustic telemetry information we want to address the following questions:
i) i) Does the provisioning influence local and/or regional movement patterns of the great hammerhead sharks in Bimini?
ii) Is there an observable effect on the migration routes of the individuals?

b) Behavioural ecology
The combination of accelerometric data and knowledge about the bait pieces consumed by each individual during a provisioning event will allow us to investigate:
i) What is the calorific intake of an individual shark attending a provisioning event?
ii) Does this supplementary energy uptake influence the daily activity of the sharks for example in regards to potential predations?

Please click on the individual great hammerheads to see more details

Name: Circe


Name: Epic

Name: Gaia

Name: Amphitrite

Name: Artemis

Name: Medusa

Name: Nemesis

Name: Thalassa

Name: Tethys 


Name: Atlas

Name: Chaos

Name: Thor

Name: Scylla

Name: Leucothea

Name: Calypso

Name: Morrigan

Name: Persephone

Name: Arachne

Name: Briseus

Name: Pandora




Please fill in the following form to report your sighting:

Sharks are among the most endangered groups of all vertebrates (Gallagher et al. 2014). The population of the great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran, is suspected to have suffered from major declines throughout their range during the past 25 years. S. mokarran are categorised as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List and were added to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II.
Findings demonstrating associative learning behaviours in sharks similar to those in land mammals (Guttridge et al. 2009) led to concerns that provisioning might negatively influence wild behaviours and natural ecology of free-ranging sharks (Brunnschweiler & Barnett 2013).
As a consequence an ongoing debate about potential behaviourally mediated ecosystem effects because of ecotourism and provisioning emerged. Barnett et al. (2016) outlines that wildlife tourism causes behavioural changes in numerous shark species, but if these behavioural changes have consequences for the shark’s health and/or fitness still needs to be proven.
To date, no such study has been conducted on the great hammerhead sharks, a species that is particularly susceptible to anthropogenic impacts (Abercrombie et al. 2005).
Effective conservation management calls for a comprehensive understanding of species-specific life-history patterns, physiology, behaviour and the links to the physical environment (Ricklefs and Wikelski 2002). This project offers the outstanding opportunity to advance theory by improving our knowledge of the inadequately documented movements and habitat use of the great hammerhead sharks. Results regarding the effects of provisioning on small-scale movements, health and/or fitness allow minimising ecological risks and maximising conservational efforts.


Abercrombie DL, Clarke SC and Shivji MS. (2005). Global-scale genetic identification of hammerhead sharks: application to assessment of the international fin trade and law enforcement. Conservation Genetics 6: 775 – 788

Barnett A, Payne NL, Semmens JM and Fitzpatrick R. (2016). Ecotourism increases the field metabolic rate of whitetip reef sharks. Biological Conservation 199: 132 – 136

Brunnschweiler JM and Barnett A. (2013). Opportunisitc visitors: long-term behavioural response of bull sharks to food provisioning in Fiji. PLoS ONE 8(3):     e58522. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058522

Gallagher AJ, Hammerschlag N, Shiffman DS and Giery ST. (2014). Evolved for ectinction: the cost and conservation implications of specialization in     hammerhead sharks. BioScience 64(7): 619 – 624

Guttridge TL, Myrberg AA, Procher LF, Sims DW and Krause J. (2009). The role of learning in shark behaviour. Fish and Fisheries 10: 450 – 469

Ricklefs RE, Wikelski M. (2002). The physiology/life-history nexus. Trends in ecology and evolution 17: 462 – 468



Project student:
Vital Heim - Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation


Dr. Tristan Guttridge - Bimini Biological Field Station

Dr. Samuel Gruber - Bimini Biological Field Station

Neal Watson - Neal Watson's Bimini Scuba Center

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