Please Don’t Feed the Animals

If you have ever been to a zoo, you have seen one or more signs conspicuously displayed that say "DON'T FEED THE ANIMALS."

Interestingly enough, I have never seen a sign like that under the sea while diving.  To some people that means it’s just fine to feed the animals- a fishball to attract sharks, green peas to draw out a moray eel, or chopping open an urchin to feed the Garibaldi’s in the kelp forest off southern California.

I have seen all of these, and disapprove of each of them. I have also seen the Sunset House mermaid statue have squeeze cheese applied to her lips (and elsewhere) to attract large angelfish for a photo op. Perhaps some or you saw the video on youtube where a diver is feeding string cheese to a very largegreen moray eel, and loses his thumb in the process! I am going on record here as saying I oppose all of these activities, and so does my wife and dive buddy Debbie. We wrote about this in our first book, The Scuba Snob’s Guide to Diving Etiquette. We feel very strongly about this. Not all will agree with us, but think about it.


Feeding changes the natural behavior of sea creatures. We dive in part to enjoy just about the only place on the planet where human activity hasn’t totally screwed with nature. It’s a lot more exciting to see a shark hunting than it is to watch it eat dead fish out of a chain mail covered dive master’s hand. I’d even say watching french angel fish moving naturally is better than watching them pluck squeeze cheese from a mermaid statue’s lips or breasts. Debbie and I enjoy watching marine animal behavior, and prefer it be all natural.

I do have to recognize two ways I have violated this “don’t feed the animals rule,” but each was not intentional I like to call these “exceptions” to the no feeding rule. The first is that it’s ok to puke in the ocean, even if it attracts fish. Divers sometimes get sick, and the only proper place to “let it go” is over the side of the boat, down wind from other divers. The second exception is much more rare. It involves bleeding in the event of an underwater injury. I once fed a very dense school of butterfly fish while diving off of Lanai.

Focusing on taking a photo, I literally swam into the side of a lava tube and gashed my head pretty deeply. Like all head/facial cuts, it bled profusely for a while. It looked like an ink cloud from an octopus, but apparently it was less noxious because it seemed as though every little butterfly fish and yellow tang within a mile descended on me. It felt like I was in the middle of a swarm of bees. I was diving with a guy named Tim from Ireland at the time. He didn’t stop laughing about the event the entire boat ride back to Maui.

If you really want to feed the fish, go ahead and open up a vein. But other than that (and puking), please don’t feed the animals. If you aren’t supposed to do it in a zoo, then certainly we shouldn’t do it in our ocean. Let’s keep nature natural.

Divemaster Dennis