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White Shark off the coast of South Africa

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Australia’s Shark Mitigation Policy Misses the Mark



                              This article written by me  for plantingpeace.org


In response to a rise in the number of fatal shark incidences off the coast of Western Australia in the last two years, the state Premier Colin Barnett has ordered a cull of all large sharks within close proximity to beaches. These “safe zones” will contain strategically placed drum lines (baited hooks attached to drums) that are monitored daily, and will solicit the help of commercial fisherman to hunt and remove sharks larger than three meters. Species targeted by this act could include the tiger, bull, and state-protected great white.  

The question by many scientists and activists is whether or not a cull of large sharks would in fact make the beaches safer; if judging by previous culling attempts, the answer is no. Between 1959 and 1976, for example, Hawaii killed 4,668 sharks around the islands. According to the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, however, this hunt had no noticeable effect on the number of bites.

Oftentimes the argument that favors a lethal solution to shark encounters is one based on emotion, one that begs the question of whose life is more valuable: the human or the shark. This is an ineffective way of thinking. Instead, there needs to be additional funding put towards research to understand where the sharks are coming from, how often they pass through the areas closer to shore, and what factors contribute to a person being bitten.

Other alternatives that could prove more effective are spotting programs, such as Shark Spotters in South Africa, or a shark relocation program, such as in Brazil. Shark Spotters was initiated in South Africa in response to an increased number of great white sharks being seen closer to shore. It was put into place in an attempt to balance the needs of both the beachgoers and the sharks. The program uses a series of flags to warn patrons of an increased possibility of a shark encounter. A green flag means that spotting conditions are good; a black flag means spotting conditions are poor. A red flag means there is a high alert for sharks; a white flag means a shark has been spotted.



After an increased number of fatal shark bites off of Recife, Brazil, the government enacted an unconventional approach to shark mitigation. The Shark Monitoring Program of Recife (SMPR) removes dangerous sharks by capturing, transporting, and releasing them offshore. This kept the danger to swimmers minimal while keeping the shark population healthy. While this program has been in effect, there has been a 97% drop in shark incidences.

There are several alternatives to culling endangered and vulnerable species to protect the lives of swimmers and surfers. If you would like to voice your opinion and let the WA Government know that what they’re planning to do is ineffective, please sign the petition written by marine zoologist Dr. Barbara Wueringer by clicking the link below: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-australian-senate-prevent-proactive-killing-of-white-sharks-in-australia-2







Saturday, December 7, 2013

31 New "Hope Spots" Announced

Her Deepness, the fabulous Sylvia Earle, along with Mission Blue and IUCN, have announced 31 new "Hope Spots" at IMPAC3 (Third International Marine Protected Area Congress). A Hope Spot is an area of ocean that warrants special protection because of its diversity in marine species and underwater habitats. These marine protected areas allow the ocean space to recover away from human interaction. While less than one percent of the ocean is formally protected, the goal of Mission Blue and IMPAC3 is to deliver the tools necessary for implementing the protection of ten percent of the ocean by 2020. A lofty, but necessary, goal.

Picture1 
Photo courtesy of Mission Blue

These thirty-one new areas are in addition to the nineteen already in place by Mission Blue across the globe, a step experts say is necessary for a sustainable ocean future. The new MPA's include places such as the White Shark Cafe in the Pacific, the Scott Islands in Canada, and the Central Arctic Ocean.  

In her award-winning 2009 TED talk, Dr. Earle stated, "I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films, the web, expeditions, new submarines, a campaign! – to ignite public support for a network of global marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”  ---The blue heart of the planet. No statement has ever been closer to the truth. With the tremendous effort put forth by ocean pioneers such as Sylvia and Mission Blue, her wish is that much closer to coming true. 

For more information on Mission Blue and a complete list of Hope Spots around the world, visit http://mission-blue.org/hope-spots-new/ 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Blackfish

There has been a lot of buzz on social media in the last month regarding the documentary Blackfish, written by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. If you have not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it. To say this film is powerful does not do it justice.

Orcas are some of the most beautiful and intelligent animals on the planet. Blackfish discusses the issues of keeping such incredible animals in captivity. At the forefront of this film is Tilikum, a performing killer whale at Sea World in Orlando, Florida, who is responsible for the deaths of at least three people since the early 1990's.

I'll be honest, I'd never really thought much about animals in captivity. This could be due in large part to the fact that I've only ever been to aquariums, not to Sea World. When I saw this film for the first time, I was not only shocked, but also outraged and heartbroken. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt; not only because of the unnecessary loss of human life, but because of the animals' lives as well. Mostly because I know that even if Tilikum were freed, he'd still be alone. Orcas are family animals; the young stay with their mothers throughout their entire lives. He never had that luxury. He was stolen from his family at two years old. Sadly enough, the human capacity for cruelty no longer surprises me.

When discussing this issue I was asked the question,"why should I care about a fish?" (Ignoring the fact that an orca is not a fish) This, in my opinion, is what is wrong with this world. Why should you care about a shark, or an orca, or a grouper? You should care because all life is precious, not just human life. Animals were not just placed here for human amusement; they serve a purpose too. One cannot simply exploit the oceans without consequence. To quote Sylvia Earle, "No blue, no green."

I've included the trailer for Blackfish. Please watch, and encourage others to do the same. Thank you.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Greenland shark rescued in Newfoundland harbor

A Greenland shark became beached on November 16th in Newfoundland harbor, after choking on a large piece of moose hide. Two men, Derrick Chaulk and Jeremy Ball, worked together to save the shark and get it back out into the water before it was too late. 

According to Chaulk, Ball removed the hide from the shark's gullet while Chaulk tied a rope around its tail. The two men managed to move the shark into about a foot of water, where it lay motionless for several minutes before finally taking a breath. 

Greenland sharks are scavengers, feeding on food found in shallow waters. Their diet mostly consists of fish, but occasionally these animals have been known to feed on larger animals such as moose, polar bears, and reindeer. They are a rare sight for most people, especially around the northeast coast of Newfoundland. To hear that two people went out of their way to save such a spectacular animal is truly heartwarming; many thanks to both of them.

Shark rescue
(Above: Jeremy Ball) Photo courtesy of CBC news Canada

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Who knew Al Gore had a sense of humor? I thoroughly enjoyed this TED talk. He makes some extremely good points about climate change and  things that we can do as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint. There is an entire library of talks he's given and they're all fantastic. If you have a moment, please watch one or two of them.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

     Good morning, everyone! I hope your week and weekend have gone well. I wanted to let you all know that I am in the process of implementing a new format for this site, the goal of which is to provide you with as much information as possible on a regularly scheduled basis. I appreciate your patience while I get things rolling. Hopefully you will all enjoy it. Big things are coming, so stay tuned!

-Heather

Thursday, October 24, 2013

If you have some free time this afternoon, David Shiffman is giving a talk for the Sharktober Hangout regarding shark science. You should join. The event starts at 4:00 p.m. EST  https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/ctbausn9echgoh8h9rpo9n8tbm4

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

     I came across an article today posted on CNN's website that made my stomach turn. The article discusses dolphins being slaughtered in Peruvian waters and used as bait for shark hunting. They go into great detail about how the dolphins are brutally slaughtered, and how as many as ten thousand dolphins are killed every year. They state how the government is appalled by this information, and how they will take drastic measures to stop the slaughter if it is found to be a widespread issue.

    While I am glad that the government is nipping this issue in the bud, and doing what they can to protect these animals, I have a problem with the fact that they are only concerned with the plight of the dolphins, while ignoring the sharks suffering the same fate on a far greater scale.

     If you add up the number of dolphins being killed each year in Peru with the number of dolphins killed every year in Taiji, Japan,  you get about twenty-eight thousand. Don't get me wrong, this is a ridiculously high number of dolphins being killed for consumption and/or for shark bait annually. The thing that bothers me the most is that there are close to one hundred million sharks killed by humans every year--that's almost eleven thousand sharks an hour!--yet there is hardly any outcry for justice there. The only reason people want to stop the shark slaughter in Peru is because dolphins are dying, not because sharks and dolphins are dying. It's extremely unfair to want to save an animal because it is cute or cuddly and completely ignore another that isn't. It makes me wonder what would have happened if Peter Benchley had never written Jaws. Would people care then?

   


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Here is a talk given by Greg Stone that I viewed recently. A great deal of amazing photos and stories that I think you'll enjoy on the topic of ocean conservation.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

I am mid-way through my Oceanography class this semester, and I have been watching a lot of TED talks involving the oceans. More recently, I've been watching the talks that piggy-back the My Wish talk given by Sylvia Earle in 2009. There is some truly incredible information given in one particular talk by Enric Sala called Glimpses of a Pristine Ocean. In the video below, Enric discusses the degradation of coral reefs due to over fishing and global warming, and ways in which to rebuild the reef ecosystems. Over the next few weeks I will post several videos that all follow the same theme; protecting our oceans. Enjoy, guys!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


If you've never heard Sylvia Earle speak, it is a must. I'm a huge fan of her work, and she is a great inspiration to me. I'd like to share one of her TED Talks with you. In this video, Sylvia is discussing ways to save our oceans, and the importance of saving and protecting the species and plant life located there. Enjoy, guys :)




Friday, September 20, 2013

Also, here's a Friday funny:

"Guy attaches camera to his surfboard to take pics while he's surfing. Saw this image going through his pics"

http://imgur.com/gallery/NZiR4l8

The comments are hilarious

International Coastal Cleanup

Hey all,

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow is the International Coastal Cleanup. You can find a cleanup group in your area by visiting oceanconservancy.org. I'll be out at New Smyrna Beach tomorrow afternoon lending a hand.

Thanks! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Men in Grey Suits

          So far the month of September has turned out to be a pretty sharky one in New Smyrna Beach, Fl. There have been three reported shark bites, two of which occurred within one minute of each other. Notice I said shark "bites" and not shark "attacks". None of the three that encountered the animals were taken to the hospital by ambulance, they all went of their own accord. 

          Twenty-five year old Marco Edmundo Cardiel was standing in waist-deep water on September 7th, when a 3-4 foot gray shark swam up and bit him on the shin. Apparently the shark thrashed for a few seconds and then released him. A few hundred feet away, forty-three year old John Graham jumped off his surf board and right on top of a 3-4 foot long shark. It was not confirmed whether or not the shark that bit Graham was the same shark that bit Cardiel. Graham admits he may have spooked the shark resulting in a bite to his foot. "It was kind of like stepping on your dog when getting out of bed. It nips at you," Graham said. "It happened because I jumped on him." A few days later, on September 12th, a thirteen year old girl was wading in about 3 feet of water when she was bitten on the heel. She was treated at the scene and then taken to the hospital by friends. Authorities determined that the presence of bait fish is what brought the sharks to the area.

          I cannot stress this enough, if you're going to get in the water in an area notorious for sharks (or any ocean for that matter) please be aware of your surroundings. If the water is murky, if there are a large number of bait fish, or if the water is unusually cold, know that you are swimming at your own risk. These are all tell-tale signs that there could be sharks swimming nearby.If you're paying attention, you could save yourself and the sharks from having a bad day.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fundraiser

       I'm currently working on making items to sell for a fundraiser on behalf of Shark Savers. I'll be making bags, shirts, and stickers to sell, and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to sharksavers.org.  I will post pictures of the items, and if anyone would like to purchase one I will include the link to the Shark Savers webpage dedicated to my fundraiser.

Stay tuned!

-Heather

Thursday, August 22, 2013

CSULB White shark study

          Researchers from Cal State University Long Beach have discovered alarmingly high levels of the chemicals DDT and polychlorinated biphenyl in juvenile white sharks off the coast of Southern California. Though the chemicals are toxic, they appear to be having little effect on the young sharks. If you have a minute, swing by and read through their study. It's extremely interesting.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0062886

Monday, August 19, 2013

Greenland shark in the Gulf?



               A group of biologists from Florida State University got quite the surprise while on expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. Dean Grubbs and his crew were studying species living in the Gulf that may have been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, when they came across a 12-foot Greenland shark.
                For those who don’t know, Greenland sharks are a deep water species found primarily in the northern Atlantic Ocean, near the Arctic Circle. They generally range from depths of up to 1200m and prefer water temperatures from anywhere between 34 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. A few stragglers have been spotted as far south as Argentina and in Antarctic waters, but never in the Gulf of Mexico and not at 6000 ft. So, naturally, when the crew pulled their cabling up to find a massive shark on the end they were understandably shocked. According to Grubbs, it took several hours for the shark to be pulled to the surface. Once there, the shark was loaded on to the boat and the crew began taking samples. Because the basis of the study was toxicology, the team had to take lethal samplings from the animal. Grubbs was quoted by NBC saying that the animal probably would not have lived very much longer in the warmer waters.

                 This story leaves me conflicted. On the one hand, I'm interested in what the FSU team finds when their reports come back. On the other hand, I wish the shark could've been tagged and tracked. I'm not a scientist (yet), just a student, but I would think the shark would be more beneficial scientifically if it were left alive.  That being said, the research crew did find quite a few fascinating bits of information in their examination of the animal. For instance, they found a six-inch stingray barb lodged in the shark's skull, probably the result of a dinner date gone array. They also looked at the stomach contents which included several squid beaks and the egg sac of a skate. Very cool.

Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory Caption
Photo credit NBC

Friday, August 9, 2013

Alien Sharks

Kudos to Discovery for actually having a good documentary during this Shark Week. Alien Sharks was amazing! In honor of their achievement for having produced and shown something scientific, I've found some footage I'd like to share.


Goblin sharks are awesome!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Murder Down Under


          I came across a story tonight that is absolutely shocking to me, and instead of continuing our Endangered Species list I'm going to share this story with you. 

         Off the coast of Australia, in the HMAS Adelaide marine reserve, a diver found a 6 ft Mako shark. Unfortunately for both parties, this particular Mako was mutilated and left hanging upside down by its tail tied to a buoy. Not only had the shark been tied up, but it also appeared to have been stabbed several times in the chest. As the area is a protected marine reserve, no fishermen (commercial or otherwise) are allowed inside. But according to Robbert Westerdyk, the diver who found the shark, "It can only have been done by fishermen who should not have been anywhere near the site.." 

         Mr. Westerdyk took photos of the gruesome site and then cut the shark loose. The killing is being investigated by the New South Wales department of fisheries. Below are the photos Mr. Westerdyk shot, and I warn you they are disturbing.

A 260-pound shark has been found brutally slaughtered and hanging by the tail off the Australian coast in a
Robbert Westerdyk

         Mako sharks, both shortfin and longfin, are listed as Vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List. The fact that someone slaughtered this animal on purpose and then posed it is absolutely barbaric. No living creature, shark or otherwise, deserves to have their life taken and especially not like this. May the person who did this be found and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

     Here's something you don't see everyday; the Tasseled Wobbegong. This shark is a master of disguise. The Wobbegong has a squashed body shape and a beautiful design that allows it to blend in with its surroundings. It also has fringed skin flaps on its lips that closely resemble seaweed. The Wobbegong lies motionless on the ledges of the reef and quickly snaps up at unsuspecting fish as they swim by.

Tasselled wobbegong, anterior view
Photo courtesy of Arkive

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Daggernose Shark (Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus)



               For Tuesday’s addition of our “Shark Week Endangered Species List” let’s take a look at the Daggernose shark. This animal is said to congregate in the warm coastal waters off South America, namely Brazil, Venezuela, and Trinidad. The Daggernose, like many other species of shark, is slow to mature and has few pups. Female sharks mature at around 6-7 years and can be pregnant for up to 12 months. Because they do not breed annually, the risk for severe population depletion is great.
                Like many endangered sharks, the Daggernose’ biggest threat is artisanal fisheries and the use of gillnets. These sharks tend to get caught in floating gillnets that are targeting mackerel and King Weakfish. Due to their slow reproduction rate, such high fishing pressure spells disaster for the population and indicates a high risk for extinction. The IUCN recommends the monitoring of fishing vessels that use gillnets in the area, and the release of live sharks that are captured. The website also suggests that the Daggernose be added to the Brazilian National list of Endangered Species. Restrictions being placed on the number of sharks that can be caught and enforcement of these rules would help aid in the conservation of this species. 

Image of Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus
Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life
     Here's a fun fact: Cookie cutter sharks glow in the dark. That's right. They use photophores on their ventral surface to attract prey. Once a larger fish swims up to investigate, the cookie shark uses its lips and upper teeth to suction itself on to the fish. It then spins its body in a tight circle leaving a cookie-shaped hole in the flesh. How great is that? But don't worry, these sharks are so small that they pose little threat to humans.


Mouth of the Cookie cutter shark. Photo courtesy of the FLMNH


Cookie cutter wound. Photo courtesy of FLMNH

Cookie cutter

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pondicherry Shark (Carcharhinus hemiodon)



                    Alright let’s kick off our “Shark Week Endangered Species list.” This first shark is extremely rare and has not been seen in the wild since 1979. As a matter of fact, the only way that this species is known at all is due in large part to 20 specimens that are housed in museums, none of which were caught after 1900. It is not actually known whether this shark still exists in the wild, it may be extinct but more information is needed. It is called the Pondicherry Shark.


                The Pondicherry Shark is said to be Indo-West Pacific, inhabiting the waters near China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, and Pakistan. It is said to stay inshore on continental and insular shelves. Due to the fact that this species is so rare, little is known about its biology or lifespan. What is known is that the population of Pondicherry Sharks is said to have been severely depleted due to unregulated artisanal and commercial fisheries, something that, coincidentally enough, is said for almost every Critically Endangered species of shark on the IUCN Red List. 


                The most important thing that you can do to help with the plight of these endangered animals is make yourself aware. Get to know these animals and the threats they’re facing and spread the word. Education is key.  


This item is an image
Above is the accepted rendition of the Pondicherry shark by IUCN. Photo courtesy of Encyclopedia of Life