Shark-based tourism presents opportunities for facultative dietary shift in coral reef fish

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 12:26pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2019
Date published: 08/2019
Authors: Joshua Drew, Mallory McKeon
Journal title: PLOS ONE
Volume: 14
Issue: 8
Pages: e0221781

Tourism represents an important opportunity to provide sustainable funding for many ecosystems, including marine systems. Tourism that is reliant on aggregating predator species in a specific area using food provisioning raises questions about the long-term ecological impacts to the ecosystem at large? Here, using opportunistically collected video footage, we document that 61 different species of fish across 16 families are consuming tuna flesh at two separate shark dive tourism operations in the Republic of Fiji. Of these fish, we have resolved 55 to species level. Notably, 35 (63%) of the identified species we observed consuming tuna flesh were from ostensibly non-piscivorous fishes, including four Acanthuridae species, a group primarily recognized as browsers or grazers of algae and epibenthic detritus. Our results indicate that shark diving is having a direct impact on species other than sharks and that many species are facultatively expanding their trophic niches to accommodate the hyperabundance of resources provided by ecotourism.

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