Scuba Instructors are often asked by divers and tourists whether it is acceptable to feed the fish on a dive site.
We appreciate that it's tempting for divers and snorkelers to offer food to fish.
But there are some reasons why feeding fish and other marine wildlife may be harmful and a few more serious reasons why it could be an extremely dangerous interaction.
If tourists and scuba divers interact in fish feeding, it often results in a 'diversion' from the normal feeding habits of fish and other marine animals.
Engaging in fish feeding tends to encourage the fishes to take the easy option for food and divert them them away from their natural food source on the reefs.
Why is that harmful ?
Because if human fish feeding becomes routine, the fish don't eat enough algae growth from the corals, which can then take over and maybe even kill the reef.
A decrease in natural biodiversity is also harmful because larger, aggressive fish can occupy a reef that's out of 'sync' with the natural inhabitants if the algae growth levels are affected.
This can prove to be disastrous in a delicate ecosystem whereby fish naturally know how to feed themselves.
The simple truth is that in most natural marine environments, fish don't need our help to eat.
The best advice for scuba divers and tourists is to avoid feeding the fish and leave them to feed independently as 'mother nature' intended them to.
When you feed fish in the wild, it can make them change and adapt their feeding patterns. They may start harassing and biting the feeders because they will begin to associate humans with food.
Fish tend to swarm around sports divers if they think they will be fed. Cases have been reported of divers being injured and bitten by swarming fish in a feeding frenzy.
As well as being dangerous for the divers, the swarming affect also attracts larger prey that 'come for the kill'.
Some divers are not aware that certain areas make it illegal to feed fish and any other wildlife.
For example, in many countries such as Egypt and the Hawaiian Islands, it is prohibited to feed the wildlife while diving.
Rules are active in some countries to protect delicate ecosystems and divers should be aware of local laws that prohibit feeding underwater wildlife.
There are many reasons why feeding fish by scuba divers is not encouraged, dangerous and maybe even illegal.
The general rules and laws that are in place, are meant to protect divers, tourists, fish life and the ecosystems. Violating these laws may result in an injury or a jail sentence. Enjoy your food yourself and leave the fish to do what they do best.
They can fend for themselves in their precious environment and Mother Nature will thank you for doing so.
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