The Blog Aquatic » sharks News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shark Week 2014 is FINished Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:00:56 +0000 Brett Nolan Continue reading ]]>

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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Watch Our Google Hangout All About Sharks Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:19:43 +0000 Michelle Frey Continue reading ]]> Did you miss Ocean Conservancy’s Google Hangout all about sharks? If so, don’t worry! We have a recording here to share with you. Enjoy.

Did you know that there are roughly 400 species of sharks? While many people fear sharks, the reality is that sharks have more to fear from humans than humans do from sharks. Watch our Google Hangout as we talk about the coolest (and often unknown) facts about sharks, the greatest threats facing sharks today, and our biggest hopes for shark conservation.


  • George Leonard, Chief Scientist at Ocean Conservancy


  • David Shiffman, Ph.D. student at the University of Miami’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy
  • Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post correspondent and author of “Demon Fish: Travels Through the World With Sharks”
  • Dr. Joe Quattro, professor of the Marine Science Program and Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolina
  • Austin Gallagher, integrative conservation biologist fascinated with the adaptations of species
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Toilets Are Scary, Sharks Are Not Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger Continue reading ]]>

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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Sharks are Jawesome Sun, 10 Aug 2014 12:00:22 +0000 Jackie Yeary Continue reading ]]>

Photo: Cheryl Black

It’s that time of year again—Shark Week!

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.

  • Sharks belong to a class of animals called Elasmobranchs, which also includes rays and skates. The animals in this group have “bones” made up of cartilage—the same stuff that’s found in your nose and ears.
  • Sharks come in all shapes and sizes! The smallest species of shark, the dwarf lanternshark, is only 8 inches long! That’s about the size of a pencil! On the other hand, the whale shark is the biggest fish in the sea! It can be over 40 feet long and weigh 20 tons!
  • Sharks have lots of amazing adaptations to make them perfectly suited to live in their environments. The Goblin shark has a set of protusive jaws, which project from its mouth to catch prey. When you live in the depths of the ocean, it’s important never to miss a meal! And the bull shark?  It’s not just restricted to saltwater—it can swim in freshwater and brackish water to search for prey!

  • Sharks have electroreceptors on the sides of their body. This allows them to sense magnetic fields underwater. Scientists believe these highly sensitive receptors allow sharks to detect the muscular movements of their prey, as well as navigate during long journeys.
  • Speaking of long journeys—sharks travel far! They swim hundreds of miles across the ocean. One shark, nicknamed Lydia, recently became the first known shark to cross the mid-Atlantic ridge, an underwater mountain range separating the Eurasian and North American  tectonic plates.
  • Sharks eat just about anything. Fish, sea lions, and even other sharks. Tiger Sharks (who are sometimes called the “garbage disposals” of the ocean) have been found with tires, liscense plates and other trash in their stomachs.
  • Sharks have a lot more to fear from people, than people do from sharks. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. And a recent report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that a quarter of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.

Want more shark facts? We’ll be sharing lots of shark content all week long! Tune into our Twitter account every night to see our live tweets of Shark Week’s programs.

We’re also hosting a Fin-tastic Google Hangout on Thursday, August 14th at 11:00 a.m. EST. We have several great panelists, including David Shiffman, Juliet Elperin, and Dr. Joe Quattro. You can submit your questions on Twitter using the hashtag #SharkWeekOC.

We’re looking forward to a great Shark Week, and we hope you are, too!

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The Real-Life Shark Tank: Why Saving Sharks is a Good Investment Fri, 14 Mar 2014 21:54:10 +0000 Jayni Rasmussen Continue reading ]]>

I may be an ocean advocate, but I have been terrified of sharks for my entire life. So, on a recent trip to Hawaii, I decided to finally confront my fear and signed up for an ecotourism shark cage dive. When I gathered the courage to lower myself into the cage, I immediately came face to face with a large Galapagos shark and was shocked by the sense that an intelligent being was looking back.

Its movements were smooth and graceful as it glided tranquilly past; its gray, sleek body standing in beautiful contrast against the cobalt blue water as I began a tremendous discovery process that would change my view on sharks forever. After such a personal experience, I came home needing to learn more about these animals I’d feared for my entire life. What I discovered was that not only were sharks in trouble, but surprisingly that their disappearance would deliver a serious cost to us as well.

Scientists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. What makes matters worse is that one-third of all threatened sharks are subjected to targeted fishing. This targeted fishing usually happens for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In this process, fishermen catch sharks and cut off their fins, often while they are still alive. Afterward, they throw the animals back into the ocean, where they slowly succumb to their injuries. In fact, in addition to targeted fishing, habitat loss, persecution and climate change are all threats to sharks.

As a byproduct of all these activities, an estimated 25 percent of sharks and rays are now threatened with extinction, according to a recent scientific report. Like large predators on land, sharks affect all species below them by keeping populations and the food web in balance. Sharks are an essential player in the ocean ecosystem. Restoring drastically reduced populations could take decades for many shark species, because sharks generally grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over their long lifetimes.

The destruction of shark populations creates not just environmental degradation, but also economic cost. Shark ecotourism generates $314 million each year, a figure that is expected to rise to $780 million in the near future. Meanwhile, the landed value of global shark fisheries is estimated at $630 million per year, a figure that has been declining for a decade. In fact, according to a study by the University of Miami, a shark is worth about $73 a day alive, but a set of fins for shark fin soup is only worth an average one-time payout of $50.

In addition to the economic benefits though, shark ecotourism also allows people to form perceptions of sharks for themselves. By observing sharks in their natural habitat through scuba diving, snorkeling, cage diving and boat tours in a sustainable manner, people are able to see the natural beauty of these creatures. Of course, there are good and bad shark tourism operations, but if these companies genuinely work to minimize their impact on the environment, these dives can promote conservation through the educational experience.

“Only after seeing people’s reactions did I see what effect it had,” said Stefanie Brendl, owner of Hawaii Shark Encounters, a company that organizes shark diving tours. When people get in the cage, participants are generally fearful of sharks or just out looking for a thrill. When they get out, they have a newfound understanding and appreciation of sharks.

So many are afraid of sharks, when they should really be afraid of what will happen if they’re gone. If you’re wondering where you can start, I’d suggest participating in conservation-minded shark ecotourism by patronizing companies that minimize interference with the behavior of sharks. This way, you can discover these majestic sea animals for yourself like I did.

From there though, we need to take action. You should make a point to stop eating shark fin soup if you do, and restaurants should be encouraged to remove it from the menus to provide the pressure needed to halt this practice. People should also research the seafood that they eat and avoid eating fish from fisheries with a high rate of shark bycatch. Doing so may not solve the problem entirely, but it will significantly cut down on the threats to sharks.

The truth is it doesn’t matter if the context is environmental or economic; the world just can’t afford to lose 100 million sharks a year. It’s time to make a good investment: saving sharks.

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Hilton Worldwide Bans Shark Fin Dishes Thu, 06 Mar 2014 21:41:35 +0000 Carmen Yeung Continue reading ]]>

Recently, Hilton Worldwide announced that they will stop serving shark fin and cease taking new orders for shark fin dishes by April 1, 2014. This ban will take place at restaurants and food and beverage facilities operated by Hilton Worldwide’s 96 owned and managed properties in the Asia Pacific region. This commitment supports the ‘Living Sustainably’ pillar of the company’s global corporate responsibility strategy.

An estimated 100 million or more sharks are killed every year – the demand of shark fin has been a major cause for the decline of global shark populations.  A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are at risk of extinction. Shark fins are harvested by cutting off all the fins of sharks and often discarding the body back into the water. This process is fatal to sharks.

Hilton Worldwide’s shark fin ban will help preserve the longevity and future of sharks, who are critical for keeping the marine ecosystems healthy. We hope that other hotel and restaurant industry leaders will follow in showing their commitment to protect sharks. By evaluating and taking responsibility for their impact on the environment, companies with strong leadership can play a major role in protecting our ocean.

Please join us in thanking Hilton Worldwide for no longer being a part of the shark fin trade.

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Western Australia Shark Cull Thu, 13 Feb 2014 16:08:06 +0000 Claudia Friess Continue reading ]]>

Tiger shark photo: Matthew Potenski, 2011 photo contest

Many species of sharks and rays around the world are in trouble, and current events in Australia remind us of that. The government of Western Australia is presently implementing a controversial “shark cull” policy in response to recent highly publicized shark attacks near Western Australian beaches. The policy consists of deploying baited hooks about a mile off of various Western Australian beaches, aimed specifically at catching large sharks. Any shark larger than 10 feet is viewed as a threat to public safety and is to be “humanely” killed; the main targets of the cull are tiger sharks, bull sharks and great white sharks. Great white sharks are a protected species in Australia, and state authorities were given a special exemption from Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to be able to kill them. The shark cull is a pilot program. If it were to continue after the April 30 trial period ends, there would have to be a full environmental act assessment.

The public outcry in Australia and around the world about the shark culling policy is indicative of the sea change in public attitudes toward sharks that has been occurring over the past decade. People around the world are growing increasingly concerned about that status of sharks and rays and are opposing what is viewed as senseless killing of an important ecosystem component. Unfortunately, the major threats to sharks and rays around the world are much less publicized than the high-visibility Australian shark cull, which has a comparatively small impact on global populations.

A scientific study published this month in the journal eLife concludes that about a quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List criteria. While the study identifies habitat loss, persecution (such as the Australian cull) and climate change as threats to sharks, the No. 1 threat remains overfishing. Some sharks are being directly targeted by fishing fleets while others are caught incidentally as bycatch in other fisheries. The global shark fin trade is a major driver for shark fisheries, but so is the demand for meat and liver oil. Most catches of sharks and rays are unregulated and unmonitored, and the shark fin market is also largely unregulated. In the United States, Ocean Conservancy supported California’s ban on shark fins in order to help curb the global demand for fins, which is fueling the trade.

Sharks and rays are more vulnerable to overexploitation than most fish in the ocean. They are slow-growing and long-lived, mature late in life, and have few young. The species most vulnerable to the fishery are the larger-bodied sharks and rays that inhabit shallow waters easily accessible to the fishery. Many of the biodiversity hot spots for sharks occur in areas where the threats are highest, for example in the Indo-Pacific and the Mediterranean Sea where population declines are most severe. Scientists are not aware of any global extinctions of sharks and rays, but there have been regional extinctions and a few species have not been seen in decades. One species that has experienced local extinctions is the smalltooth sawfish, the first marine fish to be listed in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, with the help of Ocean Conservancy and other groups in 2003.

Effective shark conservation requires attention to all of the major threats that sharks and rays face. It requires monitoring international catches and trade, assessments of the status of local populations, and implementation and enforcement of effective regulations to prevent further population declines and allow recovery of overfished populations. This is challenging in many of the poor countries where the problems are most severe due to lack of effective governance mechanisms and funding for conservation and management. Australia, in spite of the heavy criticism it has drawn for the current shark cull, is one of the few nations in the world with a relatively effective monitoring, assessment and management system in place, for sharks and other fisheries. Given the condition of the world’s shark and ray populations and their important role in ocean ecosystems, it’s important that policies protect and conserve these vital species.


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