And, according to the latest research, cage-diving is doing just that to great white sharks, diverting them from hunting prey and making them waste energy,

Shark activity increased dramatically during cage-diving sessions over nine days in South Australia's Neptune Islands, as researchers led by Charles Huveneers of Flinders University tracked 10 great whites for nine days, using  high-frequency three-axis acceleration loggers.

They found that the sharks’ “overall dynamic body acceleration” (ODBA) was 61% higher when cage-divers were present, with the effect noted only when the sharks were close to the diving vessels. ODBA is considered a proxy of metabolic rate,

Because operators are not allowed to feed white sharks, the animals' energy is expended needlessly, distracting them from normal behaviour such as foraging for energy-rich prey such as seals.

The researchers do stress that  the overall impact of cage-diving might be small if interactions with individual sharks are infrequent, but are now calling for further study to learn more about the impact of the practice on shark health.

Great white sharks are listed as an IUCN Vulnerable Species. Cage-diving takes place on the west coasts of Mexico and the USA, New Zealand and South Africa as well as Australia.

The study is published in Conservation Physiology.

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