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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Western Australia Shark Cull

Posted On February 13, 2014 by

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.

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Five Sharks Spotted During My Shark Research Cruise

Posted On August 9, 2013 by

measuring a baby tiger shark

A scientist measures a juvenile tiger shark during a population survey. Photo: Claudia Friess / Ocean Conservancy

More than 70 species of shark occur in the Gulf of Mexico and along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Of those, we catch over a dozen large and small coastal species during the bottom longline population survey I’m participating in with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Here are five of the species we commonly spot:

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark
This small shark is the most commonly caught species during our survey because it is ubiquitous in this region. In the right depths, it is not uncommon for us to catch around 50 of these small sharks per set of 100 hooks.

Population status: Due to their abundance in the western North Atlantic, their population status is not considered to be of great concern. Apart from humans, Atlantic sharpnose sharks also have other, larger sharks to fear as predators.

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Shark Sighting: What It’s Like Cruising for Sharks

Posted On August 5, 2013 by

hammerhead shark

Hammerhead shark caught for a population survey. Photo: Claudia Friess / Ocean Conservancy

While most people out on the water are trying to avoid sharks, I’m on a boat that’s looking for them. We’re trying to find out which shark species are doing well and which ones are in trouble.

The answer: it’s complicated. But one important piece of evidence is the information collected on scientific surveys of population abundance, like the one I’m on right now.

It’s my third year as a volunteer on the science crew with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I am currently on the NOAA ship OREGON II, a 170-foot research vessel with its home port in Pascagoula, Miss.

This is the first leg of the annual shark and red snapper bottom longline survey. The survey is conducted in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico from South Texas to the Florida Keys and along the East Coast up to Cape Hatteras, N.C. That’s a total of four legs lasting two weeks each.

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Can’t Get Enough of Sharks? Check Out Our Best Shark Posts

Posted On August 2, 2013 by

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?

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Sharknado: Attacks or Encounters?

Posted On July 12, 2013 by

shark

Credit: Steve Garner via Flickr

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.

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Philippe Cousteau Explains the Truth Behind Shark Attacks

Posted On May 24, 2013 by

Beach season begins this weekend and invariably this time of year brings with it flashy stories of shark attacks. All too often we hear about encounters with sharks in ways that make them sound far more common than they are, and make them sound like devious, intentional actions taken against people by sharks.   In this video for CNN, Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau separates the myths from facts and explains what’s really happening when sharks and people meet.

 

This Week’s Top Tweets: March 2 – 8

Posted On March 8, 2013 by

This week’s top tweets ranges from endangered species to insightful ideas, with a little bit of humor thrown into the mix. Check them out and let us know which one was your favorite in the comments!

1. Shark Scarcity?

Our most popular tweet of the week deals with an updated report on the amount of sharks that are killed every year by humans, with the tally at a sobering 100 million. That’s 30 to 60 percent higher than sharks can sustain at their current population growth rates, which illustrates how large of a problem dwindling shark populations are becoming. With sharks being such a naturally powerful maintenance mechanism in the ocean, this is definitely a conservation issue worth looking into.

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