The Blog Aquatic » shark attack survivors News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Can’t Get Enough of Sharks? Check Out Our Best Shark Posts Fri, 02 Aug 2013 17:05:20 +0000 Leigh Franke Lemon Shark

Credit: Jillian Morris

“SHARK!” Does the word conjure up images of a fin slicing toward you in the open ocean or on the edge of your seat completely absorbed in one of the year’s best television specials?

In preparation for Shark Week, which starts this Sunday, we’ve put together a roundup of some of our best shark blog posts from the past year:

What’s Your Shark IQ? How much do you think you know about sharks? Before taking a deep dive into the world of these complex creatures, test your basic knowledge with our short quiz. Do you know which shark swims the fastest?

Dreaming of Swimming with Sharks? Start with “the Domino” Now that you’re schooled on these big fish, take a look at the biggest of all, the whale shark. They are nicknamed “dominoes” because of their unique spots that can be used to track individual animals throughout their lifetimes. Watch what it’s like to swim in the water with the fish that can grow as big as a school bus.

Shark Bites: How Dangerous Are They? Whale sharks are filter feeders, passively scooping up small fish and plankton that are nearby, but some sharks can pack a powerful bite. Yet, despite these sharks’ sensationalized reputation as cold-blooded killers, you’re actually more likely to have a fatal encounter with a vending machine. What other day-to-day objects and activities are more likely to kill us than the bite of a shark? You’d be surprised.

Shark Attack Survivors Fight to Save Sharks There are still, however, headlines of shark attacks every year that strike a fear in beachgoers. But you don’t often hear about what happens to the survivors after recovery. One attack survivor, Debbie Salamone, realized her unique platform for speaking up about sharks. She gathered a crew of fellow survivors, including a World Cup soccer player from South Africa, a Wall Street businessman and a surfer from Hawaii, and formed Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation. If they can see the value in saving sharks, then surely everyone else can.

After all, with over 100 million killed by humans each year, sharks are a lot more vulnerable than they look. From finning to bycatch to habitat destruction, sharks face real threats to their survival.

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Shark Attack Survivors Fight to Save Sharks Wed, 15 Aug 2012 21:10:42 +0000 Sarah van Schagen tiger shark

Copyright Matthew D. Potenski 2010

Eight years ago, Debbie Salamone was attacked by a shark in the shallow waters of Florida’s Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The shark severed her Achilles tendon and led her to question her two-decade career as an environmental reporter.

After surgery and months of recovery, she came to realize that if she loved the ocean, she had to love everything in it – even sharks.

Sharks play an important role in the ocean ecosystem, Salamone explains. Removing these top predators – whether through overfishing or harmful practices like shark-finning – can have dire consequences that ripple throughout the ecosystem.

“I realized my unique position: Who could better speak up for sharks than myself and people like me?” she says.

Passionate defenders

After joining Pew Environment Group as a shark conservation advocate, Salamone reached out to shark attack survivors all over the world. She gathered a motley crew of willing advocates that include a World Cup soccer player from South Africa, a Wall Street businessman and a surfer from Hawaii.

Some are missing arms, others are missing legs – and one is missing an arm and a leg. But all of them are fiercely devoted to the cause: saving the animals that changed their lives forever.

“It gave us this incredible platform,” Salamone says. “If we can see the value in saving sharks, then surely everyone else can.”

The survivors are using that platform to urge world leaders to develop conservation plans, set shark fishing limits, enact trade protections and create shark sanctuaries.

The fact that people will listen to their message is critical, Salamone says, because most people don’t even know that sharks are in trouble.

“[Fear] is the biggest challenge we face,” she says. “Because people are so afraid, sharks are not the first animals people think of wanting to save. They think that sharks can take care of themselves, but they’re a lot more vulnerable than they look.”

Shark Fight

Salamone is hoping that “Shark Fight,” a TV special about the survivors airing during Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” will help educate people about the plight of sharks.

“This is the perfect show in terms of blending the drama of Shark Week with conservation,” Salamone says. “You’re getting the drama that’s interesting enough to keep people really intrigued so that when those conservation messages come out, they’re being heard.”

For Salamone and her fellow shark attack survivors, it’s an opportunity to turn a traumatic experience into something worthwhile.

“We can leave a legacy, and it’s not a legacy of fear – it’s a legacy of conservation.”

Shark Fight premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel.

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