Our guest blog comes from Dr. Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist in the Neuroecology Group at the University of Western Australia, and founder of the shark conservation group Support Our Sharks (SOS). Ryan founded SOS to inform the world about the plight of the most vulnerable shark species. His research focuses on the sensory biology and conservation of sharks and rays. Sharks have always been his passion, and protecting them his goal. To do this, Ryan has embarked on a career in research to better understand sharks. He takes every opportunity to communicate his findings to the general public in the hope that he can inspire others to follow in his passion for protecting these amazing animals.
It’s Shark Week! While sharks are getting all the attention this week, I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to an exciting global shark database: SharkBase. This is your chance to get involved and become a Citizen Shark Scientist! In order to protect sharks, we need to learn more about them. Effective management of sharks starts with an understanding of their population status, which can then tell us about their future conservation and how we can help protect them.
Unfortunately, many shark species (and their close relatives the rays, skates and chimaeras) are at significant risk of unrecoverable decline, with some species having declined to near extinction in recent years. I believe that Citizen Science could hold the key to improving our understanding and management of shark* populations, whilst also advancing community education. This is why my team and I have developed SharkBase, a global shark* encounter database helping to map the distribution and population structure of sharks* worldwide.
We love Shark Week because it’s an entire week dedicated to one of the ocean’s coolest animals. With more than 500 species, there are a lot of reasons to love sharks! Here are some of our favorite shark facts.
If “Sharknado” taught us anything, it’s that shark “attacks” come in a variety of forms.
But some researchers are questioning how we talk about them.
In general, the term shark “attack” is used by the media and the public to describe all kinds of human-shark interaction—even when there’s no harm or injury, according to Christopher Neff of the University of Sydney, Australia and Dr. Robert Hueter, leader of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research, who released a study earlier this year.
They suggest a new classification for “human–shark incidents” to support more accurate reporting about shark interactions. The categories, according to the press release:
Shark sightings: Sightings of sharks in the water in proximity to people with no physical contact.
Shark encounters: No bite takes place and no humans are injured, but physical contact occurs with a person or an inanimate object holding a person, such as a surfboard or boat. A shark might also bump a swimmer and its rough skin might cause a minor abrasion.
Shark bites: Bites by small or large sharks that result in minor to moderate injuries.
Fatal shark bites: One or more bites causing fatal injuries. The authors caution against using the term “shark attack” unless the motivation and intent of the shark are clearly established by experts, which is rarely possible.
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.