As the summer season kicks into full gear, beachgoers across the country are packing their sunscreen and heading to the coast. And though millions of people each year enjoy the ocean without consequence, a couple of unfortunate shark attacks have made the news recently.
Experts are analyzing temperature, current patterns and other ocean conditions to determine what, if any, unique combination of factors could have spurred this above average number of bites. Most likely though, it is merely a consequence of more people being in the water. As populations along the coast grow and more people spend time in the ocean, the probability of interactions between sharks and people increases.
However, it is important to keep these events in perspective. The actual likelihood of being bit by a shark is extremely low. There are a number of probability comparisons to pull from, but one of my favorites is that your likelihood of being bitten by another person in New York City is about 100 times greater than finding yourself on the wrong end of a shark.
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This post is a collaboration between Sarah Cooley, Ph.D. (Ocean Conservancy), Ryan Kelly, Ph.D., J.D. (U. Washington) and C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D. (NOAA)
Readers of this blog know that ocean acidification is here, today. They also know that states on both coasts and the federal government are working to halt its progress and manage its impacts. But the ocean is heedless of borders. A healthy ocean future will require global action. That is why we have our eyes on December’s Paris climate conference (COP21). Decisions made there will determine whether our children will inherit a changed-but-recognizable ocean that still provides humanity with goods and services, or a damaged ocean lacking many resources we want. There is still time for us to reduce emissions and slow the warming and acidification of our ocean, but we have to act now. That is one of the conclusions we reach in a paper out today in Science.
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The ocean lost an amazing ally this week. Dr. Eugenie Clark passed away at the age of 92 in Sarasota, Florida. She received her Ph.D. from New York University and embarked on a 50+ year career in the name of the ocean. She worked in a variety of prestigious research institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She founded the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory (now the Mote Marine Laboratory) in Sarasota, which conducts research on sharks and a number of other marine species and issues.
It’s difficult for me to properly express how much Dr. Eugenie Clark meant to me. Since I was two or three, I knew I wanted to work for the oceans. My family was incredibly supportive, taking me to numerous aquariums and trips to the beach, letting me decorate my room with shark posters, jaws, and sharks in jars, humoring me when I asked for a membership to the Center for Marine Conservation (now Ocean Conservancy) as a birthday present, and leading me towards scientists and pioneers in the field as my role models. Of those great science and political icons that I latched onto, Dr. Eugenie Clark was at the top of my list.
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Photo: Debbie Morey
The Poets’ Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has put on nearly 50 performances of its show Albatross, based on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ocean Conservancy supports efforts to protect all marine life, including sea birds like the albatross, so a partnership with The Poets’ Theater seemed natural. We even have an albatross in our logo!
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem that tells the tale of a lost sailor and his crew who are helped out of the Antarctic by an albatross. Despite the aid, the mariner kills the giant bird. The mariner then loses his entire crew, suffers great storms, and even faces manifestations of death as punishment for his crime against nature. The mariner is cursed to forever tell his tale as warning to others. Albatross follows the immortal mariner’s travels 300 years later in the year 2015.
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This video of oceanographer David Gallo‘s TEDTalk ‘Underwater Astonishments‘ highlights some of the most amazing ways creatures have adapted to life in the ocean. It is being featured as part of TEDWeekends –- a curated series that introduces a powerful “idea worth spreading” and is a collaboration of TED and The Huffington Post. This week’s TEDTalk is accompanied by an original blog post from David Gallo, along with new op-eds, thoughts and responses from the HuffPost community, myself included.
After watching the video, please read my companion opinion piece, “Preserving Our Underwater World” where I discuss why we cannot take the ocean’s resilience for granted, especially as we are saddled with an utterly uncertain climate future that is changing the ocean’s physical and biological characteristics right before our eyes.
High on my bucket list: a swim with sharks. And if I’m going to be up-close-and-personal, my first pick is to be introduced to the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark.
Nicknamed “dominoes,” these guys may grow to more than 65 feet over their long lives. To give you some perspective, recall the feeling you get standing next to the bulk of a school bus, typically less than 40 feet long. Now imagine being in the water with a whale shark. I’m thinking the wow factor is huge, especially after viewing this video.
The IUCN lists these gentle giants as “vulnerable.” Long sought after for their fins, (finnning has caused many shark populations to plummet), the good news is that whale sharks are now a growing draw for tourists. And there’s quite an emphasis on responsible practices when it comes to tours that offer swimming with whale sharks.
Hopefully, increasing awareness and appreciation of both their role in the sea and their ecotourism value for many coastal communities will give a new meaning to the term “domino effect,” and these beauties will thrive long into the future rather than facing a cascading population decline from finning and other threats in their ocean home.
I have to admit that I’m attracted by the fact that they’re slow-moving in a dreamy sort of way. And that they live in beautiful warm waters like Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Besides, who can resist meeting a critter with polka dots? I think I’ll be moving this item up on my bucket list.
Video found on Sensory Ecology.
Jim Toomey says he works alone, but muses Sherman the shark and Fillmore the sea turtle beg to differ. Photo courtesy of Jim Toomey.
Jim Toomey, who says two of his favorite things to watch on television as a kid were “Peanuts” and Jacques Cousteau programs, offers up inspiring messages about ocean conservation along with plenty of quirky humor in the comic strip “Sherman’s Lagoon.”
Sherman, a great white shark, shares undersea adventures with his pals including camping in a kelp forest and surprising encounters with ocean trash. Countering the traditional fear factor around sharks, Sherman is “Homer Simpson with fins,” says Toomey. We called the cartoonist to find out more. Continue reading »