Ocean Currents » Shark Week http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sun, 26 Jun 2016 13:00:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 What Type of Shark Are You? #SharkWeek http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/26/what-type-of-shark-are-you-sharkweek/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/26/what-type-of-shark-are-you-sharkweek/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 13:00:15 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12366

The long-awaited week filled with chilling shark drama has arrived: #SharkWeek 2016! To get you in the Shark Week spirit, we have put together a personality quiz that will match you with your perfect shark-mate. There’s no better time to discover what type of shark best matches your personality. With over 400 different species of sharks, the possibilities are endless, so take the quiz to get your results. After you find your personality companion, post your results and see if your friends agree!

If you find your curiosity getting you into sticky situations, you and a tiger shark could make the best of friends! Adventure not really your thing? That’s ok. Greenland and nurse sharks might be more your style. You’ll never know if you don’t take our quiz!

You can find the Shark Week schedule here. If you are going to spend a week learning all about sharks, you should definitely know which one you are most similar to!

Tori Glascock is an intern at Ocean Conservancy from New Jersey and is a rising junior at Stevens Institute of Technology. When she is not in the office you can find her in the pool, on the beach and playing with her dog Phoebe. 

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They’re Back! The Return of the Big Predators to Coastal Waters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/09/theyre-back-the-return-of-the-big-predators-to-coastal-waters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/09/theyre-back-the-return-of-the-big-predators-to-coastal-waters/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 12:00:25 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10412

This guest blog comes from Dr. Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology and the director of the CSULB Shark Lab

Despite the potential Discovery Channel royalties, it’s not easy being at the top of the food chain. Apex predators like sharks, that occupy the top of a food chain, are typically few in number because of certain characteristics (e.g. slow growth, low reproduction, delayed maturity and high longevity). And they are greatly dependent on animals lower on the food chain, thus dependent on the environmental conditions that support these food sources.

Humans, the Earth’s reigning “apex predator,” are clearly an exception to this rule. The human population has grown exponentially, particularly along coastal communities, bringing with it a litany of impacts on our coastal ocean, including habitat loss, pollution and overfishing. Rapid coastal development in California back in 1940s-1970s, resulted in some of the worst coastal water and air quality that existed anywhere in the country.

But since the 1970’s California has significantly improved water and air quality due to strict environmental regulations on discharge and emissions.  In fact, California now has some of the most conservative environmental regulations in the country when it comes to water and air quality.  As a result of strict regulations on waste water discharge, the state has cleaner water now than it did in the 1970s even with three times more people living along the coast.

Yet, despite all of this legislation and regulation, we’re constantly bombarded with “doom & gloom” messages about the state of our ocean. Have any of those state and federal legislative and regulatory acts resulted in any net benefits over the last four decades?  If I were to tell you things may be getting better, and the evidence for this is seen in the recovery of our marine predator populations — would you believe it?

While it’s taken decades, many marine predator populations are increasing due to better water and air quality, improved fisheries management and a restoration of ecosystem function — all of which occurred regardless of an ever growing human coastal population.

Over the last nine years, my students and I have studied juvenile white sharks off the coast of southern California as part of a collaborative effort with Monterey Bay Aquarium. Because newborn white sharks can be found in coastal waters off southern California, scientists hypothesize that this area is a nursery for white sharks in the Northeastern Pacific Ocean.

Because of their protection through state (1994) and federal laws (2005), juvenile white sharks that get accidentally caught in gillnets are no longer being sold to fish markets and restaurants and many are instead being safely released back into the ocean. This steady increase in the number of young sharks being caught in the fishery since 1994 is likely attributed to population growth, which also suggests that conservation measures put in place to protect white sharks is working even with existing fishery interactions.

Figure 1.  Number of white sharks reported captured in gillnet fisheries each year (left axis – bars).  Number of gillnets set per year (right axis – lines and symbols).  Blue bars represent white sharks less than 1 year old (< 6’ long), red indicate juvenile white sharks between 1 and 7-12 years old (6.5-12’ long), yellow indicates subadult and adult white sharks (over 7-12 years old, > 12’ long), and green indicates sharks of unknown size.

Harbor seals, northern elephant seals, fur seals, dolphins, grey whales and blue whales have also shown similar dramatic come-backs resulting from protection. These population recoveries over the last 20 years have no doubt provided the adult portion of the white shark population with substantial food resources in coastal waters and have certainly enhanced the population’s ability to grow.

The recovery of white sharks off California may be the best example of a conservation success story that we have to offer. It shows we can fix things, once we identify the problem, even with a growing human population. While there’s still a lot to be done for our ocean on a global scale, this is a testament to our collective desire and sacrifice for a cleaner, healthier ocean.

About Dr. Chris Lowe

Dr. Chris Lowe is a professor of marine biology and the director of the CSULB Shark Lab.  He and his students use various forms of new technology to study the behavior and physiology of sharks, rays and economically important fishes. For more information about the CSULB Shark Lab check out their website (www.csulb.edu/explore/shark-lab), Facebook: CSULB Sharklab, and Twitter: @CSULBsharklab

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So You Like Shark Week? Time to Spread the Love. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/08/so-you-like-shark-week-time-to-spread-the-love/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/08/so-you-like-shark-week-time-to-spread-the-love/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 12:26:03 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10391

This guest blog comes from Sonja Fordham, she directed Ocean Conservancy’s shark conservation work from 1991 to 2009. She’s now based just up the block from Ocean Conservancy’s DC headquarters, running Shark Advocates International, a non-profit project of The Ocean Foundation. Learn more about Sonja’s work from the Shark Advocates Facebook page and website: www.sharkadvocates.org. Sonja is live-tweeting Shark Week programming; follow @SharkAdvocates for conservation policy tidbits and ideas for helping sharks of all shapes and sizes.

Shark Week has been around a bit longer than I’ve been working in shark conservation. The record-breaking cable television event has changed a lot since the early days, as has shark conservation policy and my focus for advancing it.

When Shark Week debuted in 1988, sharks – despite their inherent vulnerability to overfishing – were essentially unprotected worldwide, and “the only good shark is a dead shark” was a popular maxim. When I was hired by Ocean Conservancy (then known as the Center for Marine Conservation) in 1991, there were no federal limits on shark catches in the U.S., even though a surge in recreational shark fishing (sparked by the movie “Jaws”) followed by development of targeted commercial shark fisheries (due largely to a hike in Asian demand for shark fins) had seriously depleted several Atlantic coastal species. Even finning – the wasteful practice of slicing off a shark’s fin and discarding the body at sea – was legal.

We’ve come along way since then. By 1993, we had a U.S. finning ban and fishing limits for 39 species of Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico sharks. In 1997, take of several of those species – including great whites – was completely prohibited, following similar protections for white sharks off California that were secured in 1994. By 1999, the world had taken notice of the sharks’ plight and adopted an International Plan of Action to help guide conservation efforts on a global scale. In 2000, U.S. east coast landings of spiny dogfish sharks, which had reached nearly 60 million pounds in 1996, were cut dramatically to science-based levels. In 2002, basking and whale sharks became the first shark species to be listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

By 2003, closely related rays (aka “flat sharks”) were finally getting well-deserved attention: substantial fisheries for Northeast U.S. skates came under management, and critically endangered smalltooth sawfish became the first U.S. marine fish to be listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), thanks to an Ocean Conservancy petition. In 2004, the U.S. secured the first international ban on finning. The U.S. was also a leader in the 2010 adoption of a special agreement for migratory sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species, and the groundbreaking listing of five commercially valuable shark species and both manta rays under CITES in 2013.

These are just a few of the steps in what has been steady progress in shark conservation since the early 1990s. Resulting recovery has been documented in species like Gulf of Mexico blacktip sharks, Northeast U.S. spiny dogfish, and great whites off both U.S. coasts. There is, of course, still much work to be done. The Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated last year that a quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened, with rays being generally more depleted and less protected than sharks. We must not only accelerate the pace of beneficial change for big sharks, but also expand safeguards to at-risk smaller and flatter species.

We celebrated just days ago as manta and devil rays received new protections from Eastern Pacific fisheries. Recognition that these species usually have just one baby after a long pregnancy is helping to spark safeguards around the world, and yet closely related and similarly vulnerable cownose rays spending their summers in the Chesapeake Bay remain completely unprotected in the face of wasteful bow-hunting tournaments and targeted seafood marketing campaigns.

Scientists are encouraged by signs that Florida’s sawfish population may be rebuilding, yet education programs critical to safe release are woefully underfunded, due to declining ESA appropriations from Congress. Lack of public concern for New England’s skates means ending overfishing and ensuring rebuilding are not high priorities for the region’s fishery managers. Similarly, smoothhound sharks (aka smooth dogfish) remain subject to targeted, unregulated fisheries and one of the world’s weakest finning bans, due to insufficient outrage.

Mockumentary on Megalodon notwithstanding, Shark Week programming appears to be changing for the better with greater focus on real scientists and lesser known species.  While we’re likely several years away from specials dedicated to thorny skates or dusky smoothhounds, we’re pleased for the associated opportunities to spread the love and fascination for big, bad sharks to the scores of related species that also need public admiration and attention.  Indeed, continued evolution toward broader and increasingly positive public perceptions of sharks is key to the survival and sustainability of this entire group of fascinating fish.

_________________________

Sonja Fordham has two decades of shark conservation experience. She directed shark policy projects at Ocean Conservancy from 1991-2009, played a lead role in the EU Shark Alliance from 2006-2012, and founded Shark Advocates International as a project of The Ocean Foundation in 2010. Her work focuses on publicizing the plight of sharks and advocating science-based remedies before fishery management and wildlife protection bodies. She has been a leading proponent of many landmark shark conservation actions, including U.S. and European safeguards, various finning bans, the United Nations International Plan of Action for Sharks, multiple measures by international fishery organizations, listings under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and agreements under the Convention on Migratory Species.  Sonja is Deputy Chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Conservation Committee Co-Chair for the American Elasmobranch Society. She has co-authored numerous publications on shark fisheries management and serves on most of the U.S. federal and state government advisory panels relevant to sharks and rays.  Sonja has received the U.S. Department of Commerce Environmental Hero Award, a Mid-Atlantic Council Fishery Achievement Award, the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award, and the IUCN Harry Messel Award for Conservation Leadership.

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Best to Be Aware, Rather than Beware, of Sharks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/06/best-to-be-aware-rather-than-beware-of-sharks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/07/06/best-to-be-aware-rather-than-beware-of-sharks/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:00:10 +0000 Adena Leibman http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10360

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.

There are over 400 species of sharks—ranging in size from the world’s largest fish to a shark that can fit in your hand—that show an amazing array of diversity. Aside from the more well-known species like white sharks and hammerheads, there are also the slow moving filter-feeders known as basking sharks, spinner sharks that are known to leap out of the water, and even the oddly enchanting goblin shark. Some are even downright adorable.

Nearly all of them are at real danger at the hands of humans. Each year, millions of sharks are killed in fisheries, either as targeted species or accidental bycatch. Further, there is still a tragic demand for shark fins in some countries. Finning is a brutal practice that often involves removing the fins from the shark while it is still alive, and then returning the mortally injured animal back into the ocean to drown or bleed to death. Though we are seeing growing support for eliminating the practice of finning, there is still a long way to go. In the meantime, a quarter of sharks and rays (close relatives of sharks) are threatened with extinction.

Sharks predate dinosaurs and have been swimming the seas for nearly 450 million years. Yet, now they are facing some of the greatest challenges to their survival. Being well-informed on what fish products you purchase, supporting campaigns to ban shark finning in your state, and helping educate people about the wonder of sharks are great ways to start getting involved in shark conservation.

But in case you still have some hesitation about entering the water, we’ve collected some simple pointers below that can help ensure you have a safe and fun summer:

1)     Stay in good company: Avoid swimming alone and try to stay near a lifeguard stand, if possible. Sharks tend to target solitary prey and in case you get into trouble, it’s always good to have someone nearby who can help.

2)     Avoid hot spots: Stay clear of piers, stormwater and effluent outflows, sandbar ledges and other sharp drop-offs, and places where people are actively fishing. Avoiding these areas that generally attract bait fish and subsequently sharks will help keep you clear of possible negative interactions.

3)     Play it cool: Sharks have evolved to be fine-tuned hunters who are very sensitive to visual, olfactory, and other sensory cues. For a shark, erratic movements, changing color patterns and blood point to what it interprets as injured—and thus easy—prey. Avoid frantic splashing (by you or your pet) and shiny or reflective jewelry and clothing. Do not enter the water if you are bleeding.

4)     Remain aware of your surroundings: Maintain a safe distance to shore and swim during daylight hours, avoiding sunrise and sunset. Stay alert for shark sightings and other safety warnings.

5)     Be respectful: Of course, if you spot a shark do not harass it. It is important to remember that sharks are powerful animals that deserve our respect. Understand that you are the one evading their territory. So please take care of our ocean and sharks, and have a great beach season!

For more information on sharks, please join us for our science series this week as part of our “Shark Week” coverage.

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Shark Week 2014 is FINished http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/17/shark-week-2014-is-finished/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/17/shark-week-2014-is-finished/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:00:56 +0000 Brett Nolan http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9025

Photo: Digital Vision

Another Shark Week has come and gone. Were you on the edge of your seat watching Discovery’s shark specials or tweeting corrections about their info-tainment? We here at Ocean Conservancy were doing a bit of both. Shark issues do get a huge bump, especially on social media, during Shark Week. We felt it was important to use this swell of interest to share important shark information and turn casual Shark Week viewers into full on shark advocates.

Sharks Are Fin-tastic: Ocean Conservancy’s Google Hangout

On Thursday, August 14, we hosted a Sharks Are Fin-tastic Google Hangout that was moderated by George Leonard, our chief scientist. Our panelists included David Shiffman, Dr. Joe Quattro, Juliet Eilperin, and Austin Gallagher. They all touched on what they thought were the biggest threats facing sharks. Their answers ranged from ignorance about sharks to shark finning. They all have hope for the future though. Recent studies show some shark species are rebounding and world leaders are implementing new protections like marine protected areas. And thanks to questions from our Twitter followers, we were able to have a lively Q&A session.

Dating Bites – Meet the Shark of Your Dreams

Despite being so misunderstood by humans, sharks are still searching for reel love. We created shark dating profiles so supporters like you can get to know sharks a little better.

Highlighting New Protections for Scalloped Hammerheads

Scalloped hammerheads are the first shark species ever to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. We asked people to celebrate Shark Week by thanking NOAA for taking a step in the right direction for shark conservation.

Hey Girl, Share Your Shark Week Love

Continuing with our theme of shark love, we sharkified the ‘Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling’ Meme. Send one to your fellow shark lovers today!

Toilets Are Scary, Sharks Are Not

With Shark Week specials like Sharkageddon giving viewers bloody dramatizations of shark attacks, it’s important to put things in perspective. There are so many everyday things more likely to kill you than sharks. Did you know dogs, bees, snakes and pigs kill more people than sharks every year?

Sharks Are Jawesome

Whether you love to hate Shark Week or devour it whole, we can all agree that sharks are Jawesome. The diversity of shark species is astounding! Each one is perfectly adapted to their environment, making them some of the top predators in the ocean.

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This is a First For Sharks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/13/this-is-a-first-for-sharks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/13/this-is-a-first-for-sharks/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:09 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8993

Happy Shark Week! We have some shark news to share with you — help is on the way for scalloped hammerhead sharks! Will you join us in thanking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for helping these sharks by granting them protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Thank NOAA today for protecting endangered scalloped hammerheads.


Scalloped hammerheads are the first sharks ever to receive this protection. They’re extremely vulnerable to shark finning and fishery bycatch throughout much of their range. This is a much-needed boost for this critically important and threatened species. In the last 20 years alone, the number of scalloped hammerheads has fallen by 75 percent. A loss like this has impacts throughout the rest of the ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks play a key role in controlling the abundance of prey they feed on.

Thank NOAA today for protecting endangered scalloped hammerheads.

I truly hope you’ll join us in thanking NOAA for protecting scalloped hammerheads. This is a great first step in the road to their recovery and to having a healthier ocean.

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Toilets Are Scary, Sharks Are Not http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/12/toilets-are-scary-sharks-are-not/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/12/toilets-are-scary-sharks-are-not/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8982

Photo: Armando Jenik

This post was written by Ocean Conservancy’s Digital Communications Intern, Maggie Tehan. Maggie is a recent graduate from Clemson University where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in Writing. When she’s not working at Ocean Conservancy, you can find Maggie expressing her biting wit on social media (pun intended), cheering on her favorite football teams, and wishing she had a permanent ocean view. 

What emotion comes to your mind when you think about sharks? For many people around the world, that emotion is fear. But why is there so much fear surrounding the topic of sharks?

Unfortunately, sharks have a well-known negative image, instilled in us by movies and news stories that continue to terrify people. The media has introduced a sense of fear in us and because of this distorted framing; sharks have been branded as villains or “man-eaters,” and have been feared and hunted for centuries. But is the media really classifying the right group as villains?

Humans fear the unknown and assumed threats, but sharks fear the legitimate perils that they face everyday. I know what you are thinking, what should sharks be afraid of? Well, it’s us. Humans threaten sharks livelihood day in and day out.  Sharks are some of the most biologically vulnerable creatures in the ocean because they grow slowly, mature late and produce few young.

In the 400 million years that sharks have roamed the ocean, they have been hunted for their meat, fins, teeth and more. Every day, 250,000 sharks are pulled out of the ocean and killed for their fins, meat and liver oil or as bycatch when they are accidentally caught in fishing nets or on hook and line. Humans slaughter more than 100 million sharks every year. Recently, overfishing has caused severe declines in shark populations.  The spiny dogfish shark, previously one of the most ample shark species in the works is now depleted off the U.S. East Coast.

Additionally, sharks face the threat of finning, the practice of cutting off the shark’s fin and tossing the carcass back into the water where they face a certain death. Shark fins are highly prized ingredients to a so-called delicacy, shark fin soup.  While shark finning has been banned in all U.S. waters, it still occurs legally in many parts of the world.

The negative media spotlight continues to hinder shark conservation efforts. Sharks are apex predators, which means they play a vital role atop the ocean food web, balancing many trophic systems. Because of this, shark conservation is crucial. The absence of sharks would threaten to affect the balance of delicate marine ecosystems that we have come to know and love.

Every year, dogs, bees, snakes, and pigs kill more people than sharks do. And in a single year in the United States, 43,000 people were injured by toilets while only 13 were wounded by sharks. That’s right—your toilet is 3,000 times more likely to hurt you than a shark.  Don’t let your misguided fear hinder shark conservation efforts and instead be educated on the legitimate risks associated with sharks.

Thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. government is now protecting scalloped hammerheads under the Endangered Species Act. Scalloped hammerheads are the first shark species to ever receive such federal protections. You can do your part too, let NOAA know that you appreciate and support what they have done to protect scalloped hammerheads.

Let’s all be informed, aid conservation efforts and avoid being another shark’s nightmare.

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