Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Confirmed: Sharks Live in the Atlantic Ocean

Over the past few days I've seen several news stories here in New Jersey claiming that sharks have been seen swimming in the Ocean. Now, it only makes sense that sharks would be seen swimming in the Ocean as that is in fact where they live. The conditions are literally perfect in New Jersey right now for sharks to be about. There is a TON of little fish (silversides) that are around. Chasing them around are the bigger fish, the bluefish. Following the bluefish are the biggest fish, sharks. With that being said. The food chain is occurring literally just off the coast. It is no freak chance that fisherman have started catching sandbar sharks from the beach. They are their every year doing the same thing, chasing bluefish and silversides.

Just three miles off of Sea Girt, a great white shark was tagged just about 2 weeks ago. Much like the sandbar sharks, the great whites in the area hunt the larger bony fish we get here in New Jersey such as bluefish. Every year we also get stingrays here in New Jersey. Rays have been seen swimming in the waters off the coast of New Jersey over the past few days. These rays are much more interested in finding clams and crabs hiding in the sand than trying to sting every human they see. The only way a ray will ever sting a person is if the ray feels it's the last resort.

Despite rays and sharks both being present in New Jersey waters, there have been no shark attacks or ray stings. None of these animals are out to get us. Despite the claims that Hollywood has made, these animals are not our enemies. Every time we enter the Ocean we are stepping into their backyard. Treat their home with respect and treat them with respect and you will be given that same respect. Swim with a bunch of injured bluefish and disrespect the sharks, don't be surprised if you get bit. Step on a ray and disrespect in. Don't be surprised if you get stung. Swim sensibly, don't swim alone, don't swim at dusk or dawn and I can guarantee you, you will not have a negative encounter with a shark.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Truth About Great Whites

The words great and white in the same sentence is enough to strike unimaginable fear into the hearts of many people. With Jaws being released on Blu-Ray this August, the time has never been better to realize the truth about great white sharks. This species of shark has been a source of great fear for several years now. As a direct result of that fear, people have avoided going into the Ocean, people have killed sharks, people have rallied against them, and people have even gone out and tried to slaughter as many as they humanly can. The truth of the matter tough, is much different.

Great white sharks are a large species of shark that have gotten a really bad rep for being vicious man eaters. The primary diet of a great white shark consists largely of marine mammals such as seals and sea lions as well as some large fish and rays. One thing is certainly not a piece of that diet. Humans. Despite great whites having killed more people than any other people in the world, they are far from the monsters people make them out to be. Lets dive into the heart of shark attacks involving great white sharks. When great whites come in contact with people, attacks occur as a case of mistaken identity. Sharks have incredible senses, but the one sense of a great white that gets negated is the sense of vision when it comes to biting. In an effort to protect their eyes, great whites roll their eyes into the back of their head to prevent any damage from occurring to their eye. It is a great adaptation that these sharks have and it works really well. Sadly for humans though, this adaptation is the one thing that has a lot of responsibility in a shark attack.

From underwater, things do not look at all what they look like on land. Lets look at some pictures.

Here's a picture of some seals. To a great white this is an amazing meal. Ok so next picture.

Here's a picture of a sea turtle. To a great white, this is a potential meal. Next picture...

Here's a picture of a guy on a surfboard.... Well... This is not a meal for a great white. The point of this though is this...

Take a look at the three pictures. On a surfboard, a person looks very similar to a seal. On a boogie board, a person looks very similar to a sea turtle. You have two hands just like a seal has two flippers. you have two feet just like seals have two rear flippers. We have an elongated body just like a seal. The bottom line is this. From underwater, seals and sea turtles look just like a person on a board. To a shark who rolls their eyes into the back on their head, they cannot tell the difference between a seal and a person. This is why great whites are known to only bite a person once. They have a very good sense of taste and will reject humans the moment they get that taste in their mouth. The problem comes in the fact that these animals are so large and hit so hard, there is really nothing that can be done to prevent serious injury.

The truth remains though. Great whites are not the vicious man eaters that Hollywood and the media has made them out to be. They are extremely intelligent and come in contact with divers almost on a daily basis and no attacks happen. The best way to avoid a bad encounter with a great white, do a few simple things that are probably good practices anyway. 1.) Never swim alone. Rip currents kill infinitely more than sharks do, so it is a good practice to swim with at least one other person. 2.) Do not swim as the sun is coming up. Sharks usually feed in the morning. Another good practice since it is not the easiest thing seeing in the Ocean when the sun is directly in your eyes. 3.) Do not swim when the sun is going down. Same thing as in the morning, sharks feed as the sun sets. It's a good practice not to swim when it gets dark anyway.

So hopefully this will help you have a better understanding about Great White Sharks. So the next time you watch Jaws, remember that Jaws is Hollywood. Reality is a totally different thing.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Tale of Shark Finning

They say seeing is believing. With that being said, this is a fair warning to the graphic nature of this blog in regards to shark finning. The results of shark finning will see the end of the world as we know it and that time could come sooner than you may think with more and more sharks being killed every day. Their stories sadly will never be told. The story of being dragged onto a boat (equivalent to a person's head being held underwater). The story of having their fins hacked off by a machete one by one. (equivalent to a person's arms and legs being cut off one by one.) The story of being thrown back into the sea to either bleed to death, be eaten by scavengers, or starve to death. (equivalent to a person with no arms or legs being tossed onto a beach and left for dead).  The only story that is there is in the pictures. Sharks have no voice, but the images that have spread on the internet tell the tales that these animals could only hope to have told.

So the tale of shark finning begins. History shows that hundreds of years ago, shark fin soup was given to the Emperor of China as a symbol of status and prosperity. Originally the soup was solely for the Emperor. As time passed though, the soup became a status symbol for anyone who could afford a $100 bowl of soup. Since then shark fin soup has been used in all different kinds of Chinese functions. Now, some people claim that the fight to save sharks is rooted in racism against the Chinese. These claims are totally unfounded. Pockets of Chinese people claim that shark fin soup in deep rooted in Chinese tradition. Which it is not seeing as the Emperor has long since been off the throne and the only tradition was the soup being given to one man, the Emperor. There is no racism involved in the fight to save sharks. In fact, there are many Chinese people that are in the front of the fight to save sharks. The most well known is NBA star Yao Ming. Yao has been the cornerstone of the fight to save sharks for several years now and has helped really bring the plight of sharks to the Chinese people. The following pictures are the harrowing truth of the "tradition" of shark finning. Again, it is not a tradition at all. If it was tradition, I highly doubt that the Chinese government would have banned shark fin soup from all state banquets.

Final Warning: The following images are graphic in nature. Some reminders... Sharks reproduce very slowly, so any shark that is killed does impact the population. Adult sharks are not the only targets, babies are finned just as the adults are. Sharks are often still alive through the finning process. Sharks cannot swim without their fins and simply put, cannot survive without their fins.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Manta and Mobula Rays Vanishing From the Seas

One of the massive issues with manta and mobula rays that people just don't seem to understand is that no one knows just how many of them exist. Originally, manta rays were all grouped together as one species. Scientists have since changed that so there are a few different species of manta rays that exist in the seas today. The status of these rays though is unknown. manta rays are very vulnerable to overfishing. Manta rays mature late in life and some will only give birth to 1 pup in their entire lives. As a result of this, scientists are starting to fear that populations of manta and mobula Rays are in a steady decline. Fisherman in Peru and Indonesia have confirmed that over the past few years, the rays that are caught have been smaller in size than ones caught in years prior.

This doesn't spell just bad news for the rays themselves, but it also spells bad news for the tourism industry as well. On average a manta ray is worth a mere $500 in the marketplace. The vast majority of that $500 comes from their gill rakers which can sell for as high as $500 themselves. The rest of the ray is virtually worthless. It is an incredibly different scenario with live rays. The value of a live manta ray to dive tourism is... $1,000,000. That's right. One million dollars. Lets break it down a bit. In Kona, Hawaii, the annual revenue from diving with manta rays comes to roughly 3.4 million dollars. In Ningaloo, Australia, the revenue from diving with mantas is roughly 1.8 million dollars. In Nusa Penida, Indonesia, diving with mantas produces an annual revenue of 3.5 million dollars. Do you see a trend here? The Republic of Maldives annual revenue from diving with manta is a whopping 8.1 million.

Again, a dead manta ray is worth just $500. That same ray, if allowed to live could help to raise over a million dollars in its life. The gill raker trade that fuels the slaughter of these animals undeniably makes money for those who sell them. This however is nothing more than a short term way of making money. The incredibly slow reproductive rate of these animals means that there usually isn't all that many living in one area. For example, in Yap there are just 100 rays living there. Diving revenues from those 100 rays comes to 4 million dollars. This is a great long term way for countries both large and small to make some serious money. Plus it is much more sustainable than killing a ray off for basically nothing more than its gill rakers. The moral is... Rays make more money for people alive than they do dead.

The sad thing is that people generally do not see it that way. What they see is a possible cure to disease, chickenpox, other diseases, and a better sex life. None of these positive things have any kind of scientific backing and are simply not true. For a diver or snorkeler though, mantas really do offer that dream of seeing something amazing. Every year, surveys show that mantas rank consistently in the top 3 of animals people want to swim with. Manta rays are in big trouble and their plight is not one that is very well known. As a result mantas are in more danger than people really think. The fate of manta and mobula rays remains cloudy, but efforts like the Manta Ray of Hope are helping to really save these creatures from the one thing that is forever... Extinction...  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sharks: More Than Just Bite

Just how smart are sharks? It's a question that has tinkered with the human mind for many years now. Are they simply mindless eating machines? Or is there something more to them. Does the fact that 3/4 of their brains are dedicated to smell mean that these animals have little intelligence? The answer to both of those questions are no. Over the past few years there has been scientific discoveries that point to the direction of sharks having some form of intelligence and in some cases problem solving skills.

One shark in particular has been the subject of some of these discoveries, the whale shark. Yes the largest of all fish may be a bit smarter than most people would give them credit for. These massive sharks are the gentle giants of the sea and it appears that they are capable of doing some interesting things. One of which was caught on film and has spread like wildfire. The video shows a whale shark going up to a commercial fishing vessel's net and literally sucking the small fish back out of the net for a free meal. At the same time, the shark does not eat the net at all. Whenever it gets some of the net in it's mouth, it spits it out. Clearly an animal with one thing on its mind would not care to pick and choose what it is eating. Fishing vessels have also claimed that whale sharks have come up to their boats and gently push them around, almost like playing with them. It's an incredible thing when you think about it. Whale sharks are not alone, other species of shark including hammerheads, nurse, sand tiger, and lemon sharks are all known to form social groups from time to time. For example, scientists have found caves where over 30 sand tiger sharks were literally hovering motionlessly together in the water. Scientists have also found massive piles of over 200 nurse sharks, just hanging out together. Lemon sharks are known to spend the day resting with other lemon sharks before going off to hunt at night. Perhaps the most interesting is schools of blacktip reef sharks showing off their catches to one another by leaping out of the sea with their food hanging out of their mouths. It could be that these sharks, just like people, enjoy being around other members of there species. 

Despite that being a possibility, we may never really know the truth about the intelligence of sharks. These animals are clearly smarter than what Jaws was made out to be. No shark in the entire world goes around eating and targeting humans 24/7. In fact, no shark truly targets a human. Anyway... Despite the sense of smell taking up a large portion of a shark's brain, it does seem that there is more than meets the eye going n inside the head of a shark. Not to sound crazy, but if we can save these animals from extinction now, who knows what we could learn about them. Nobody truly knows what goes on inside the head of a shark, but the moment you lay eyes on a living, breathing shark, you can tell that something is going on inside that head besides when their next meal is. Next time you go to an Aquarium, try it. Look at a shark and you should quickly be able to figure out what I mean. Now the question is, why would I type all of this up without mentioning the main reason I wanted to? Well here's the answer.

With Discovery Channel's Shark Week quickly approaching, people begin to get into a frenzy about sharks. I said it during an earlier blog and I will say it again, T.V. is just that, T.V. Shows that have sharks biting people, blood squirting everywhere is what draws people to Shark Week. For some strange reason, people seem to have an infatuation with being eaten. It has always been that way since the days of the Ancient Greeks. It's just  fact that mankind is for some reason interested in things that can eat them. That infatuation though can lead to terrible things for the creatures of this planet, and it already has. Not just with sharks, Alligators were nearly driven off the planet, large snakes are killed by people out of fear, many people fear lions, tigers, and bears (no pun intended) and sure enough, they kill them as well. Anything that can harm and potentially consume a human brings up some of the deadliest emotions in a person. Fear. So while you sit and watch Shark Week this year and your heart starts to beat a little faster as you see that fin cutting through the water heading right towards an unaware surfer. Remember. It is television. Nothing more, nothing less. Shark attacks themselves are not as dramatic as you will see, they are nowhere near as common as you will see, and they are usually far less deadly than you will see. Keep in mind that a lot of the scenarios where divers are in the water with "hungry sharks" are staged in a sense where shark feeding tours take place and the sharks know a meal could be coming to them if they stick around in that area. You may see a diver get bit on a show, but you have to ask yourself what are the conditions surrounding the diver. So enjoy this year's Shark Week, but remember, there is far more to these animals than their bite!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Return of "Jaws" or a Huge Misunderstanding

In the last 11 months there have been 5 fatal shark attacks committed by Great White Sharks. All attacks were in one place, Australia. The Government of Australia is now asking that the Conservation Status be looked at. Australia is seeking a removal of the protection of these sharks and even start a cull to reduce the population size of Great Whites in Australia.

This is a incredibly large overreaction. It is very unfortunate that the 5 attacks happened and I do feel for those who lost their loved ones, but the facts of the matter remains. Great Whites are not man eaters. Not a single one of the people who were attacked were eaten by the shark. All 5 cases can be boiled down to cases of mistaken identity. In Australia, great whites will often feed on marine mammals such as seals and sea lions. From underneath, the silouette of a surfer laying on their board is strikingly similar to that of a seal. You have a long body, 2 small flipper (hands) and 2 longer flippers (legs/feet). When Great Whites go to bite anything, the roll their eyes into the back of their head and becomes blind to whatever it is they are going to bite. They do this in an effort to protect their eye from an animal that may escape and scratch the shark in the eye with claws, a beak, etc.

The end result of these 5 attacks of course is a truly heartbreaking thing. Great Whites are so large and so powerful that a little 150-200lb person is like an ant to them. When they bite, it does a huge number on a person, sometimes resulting in death. The issue really is that Australia has always been a hot spot for Great Whites due to the fact that there is ample food there for them to eat. With that being said, the sharks have every right to be there. The fact that these animals may soon be hunted down for nothing more than the fact that they are an animal that cannot distinguish man from seal before becoming blind. There are things that Australia can do that does not involve killing off a species of shark whose remaining population is estimated to be no more than 3500.

For example, Australia can simply ban surfing from the beaches that Great Whites have claimed as their own.  The government can outlaw swimming off of those beaches at peak shark hunting hours, usually in the morning and evening. Or they can install shark safe nets at these beaches to help deter sharks from coming too close to shore. The bottom line here is that this is not the return of the feared Jaws. There is not some shark out there trying to just pick off people for their own pleasure or satisfaction. The thing that everyone needs to remember is that the moment you step into the Ocean, you are in their world. All 5 of these attacks could have been avoided if there was more of an understanding of these animals. Again I am not unsympathetic to the families who lost their loved one, I just feel that there were ways that they could have avoided the situation and that there are better ways to prevent future attacks other than outright killing Great Whites for no reason. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gill Raker Harvesting Joining Shark Finning

Shark finning is a major problem in the world. Every year millions of sharks are killed exclusively for their fins. As one would expect this has a horrific effect on the populations of sharks. In fact it is starting to become difficult to find enough sharks to fill the demand for fins. Recently there has been a rise in a new substitute for fins. This substitute is just as unsustainable to the Oceans as shark finning. The practice is the the harvesting of the gill rakers of both Manta and Mobula rays. 

This disgusting process is just as damaging to these rays as finning is to sharks. Naturally, Mantas and Mobulas will swim through the Oceans filter feeding, similar to whale and basking sharks, eating only the smallest of creatures such as plankton and krill. They have never injured a human yet the demand for their gill rakers has skyrocketed in the last few years. The ultimate question is why the demand has increased and just what the gill rakers are used for. 

The reasons for the high demand for gill rakers are virtually the same reasons there is such a large demand for shark fins...

1.) False Medicinal Reasons
Very similar to shark fins, many people falsely believe that ray gill rakers will help to cure disease, such as cancer and chickenpox,, increase respiratory functions, and lead to a better sex life. Just like shark, there is no scientific evidence of gill rakers doing any of the mentioned things. Still though, people believe that gill rakers do in fact do these amazing things and continue to demand them.

2.) Financial Appeal
Shark fins sell for a large sum of cash. Ray gill rakers sell for an incredible sum of cash. Currently the gill rakers of a ray is worth roughly $500USD per Kilogram in China. Sharks are vanishing from the seas and people are searching for an alternative to show off their status. In this case, the gill rakers of rays. Outside of the gill rakers, Manta and Mobula rays are virtually worthless. Just like shark meat, the meat of these rays are virtually worthless, often times being under $20 for an entire ray's worth. Mind you, Mantas can be very large rays. The skin of the ray is worth about as much as shark skin, virtually nothing. The cartilage of the ray is used for a substitute for shark cartilage pills. Again, it is virtually worthless in value.

3.) Very Loose Regulations
The harvesting of gill rakers is one of the least regulated and even reported slaughters going on in the world right now. Much like shark finning, if a nation does have a law to help protect rays, it is not enforced very well because of the financial situations of the countries. However, there are literally no noteworthy nations outside of Peru and Indonesia, that have any kind of restriction on harvesting rays. There aren't even any real regulations on Aquariums going out and collecting them. The lack of regulations probably has a lot to do with the lack of knowledge on the populations of these rays. Fisherman in several countries have reported a sharp decline in the size of the rays caught as well as the number. The same can be said with shark finning, countless numbers of smaller sharks are being killed off and fewer and fewer large sharks are being seen.

The threats that these rays face need to be cut out before things get just as out of hand as shark finning. Rays play an incredibly important role in the Oceans and eliminating them for nothing more than money and false medicinal cures is simply disgusting. We know so little about these animals yet we are simply killing them off. Nobody truly knows the life cycle of a Manta or Mobula ray, their populations, capabilities, their level of though, virtually nothing. All we truly know is that they are rays that eat the tiniest creatures in the Oceans. We know that they mature late in life and that they have a pretty good lifespan, but we don't know the details on how these animals really work. 

The fight to save rays is just getting started. The combined efforts of WildAid and Shark Savers have resulted in the project known as Manta Ray of Hope. The objective of the project is to raise awareness for these animals as well as trying to kill the incredibly fast rising demand for gill rakers. For more information on Manta Ray of Hope check out mantarayofhope.com 

My next blog featuring Manta and Mobula Rays will continue to bring their plight into the light and put some things that we do know out there about these truly amazing and beautiful creatures.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Discovery Channel's Top 10 Deadliest Sharks????

With shark week quickly approaching, people will flock to their televisions and watch largely fictional shows. I say fiction because the facts that are presented in the majority of these shows are so far from the truth, it's almost disgusting. There are a few shows that offer good true information, but the majority simply do not. For example, one of the shows focuses on great white sharks lunging themselves into the air while grabbing seals. The show is called Air Jaws and it is full of pretty good information. The title is it's only flaw. I mean really, Jaws. Does Discovery Channel really need to continually bring up a book/movie that brought nothing but terror of sharks? I think not. Another show Blood In The Water, focuses on the 1916 New Jersey Shark attacks, but does it in such an over dramatized way that it comes off as almost a Sci-Fi show designed to strike fear into the heart of viewers and not really educate people on the 1916 shark attacks and how nobody truly knows exactly what caused the shark to attack several people. That's another story though, for now I'm going to dissect the show10 Deadliest Sharks. This show in particular is incredibly outrageous in its claims of the 10 "deadliest" sharks. Starting from number 10 using real statistics from the International Shark Attack File from 1580-2011. That's 431 years for anyone who was wondering...........

10.) Lemon Shark
Currently, there are 0 fatal shark attacks accredited to lemon sharks. So my question is this... How can a species of animal that has never killed a person be one of the deadliest sharks in the world? Literally, not a single person killed by a lemon shark yet they are somehow they are one of the deadliest in the world.

9.) Blue Shark
Currently, there are 4 fatal shark attacks accredited to blue sharks. That's 4 in 431 years. So that's like 1 in what? Every 100 years? If you ask me that hardly qualifies as deadly considering more people die in the strangest ways every year. Oddly enough it never seems to be from one of the 10 deadliest sharks in the world. What's even more interesting about this shark being one of the top 10 deadliest is that they rarely come in contact with humans. Occasionally they come close to shore, but for the most part they are out in the open ocean.

8.) Hammerheads
This one for the life of me I cannot wrap my head around. There are always stories of hammerhead sharks eating people, killing people, etc. Apparently, not a single one of them is well founded. According to the International Shark Attack File, hammerhead sharks are accredited with 0 fatal shark attacks. Similar to the lemon shark, this species has never killed a human being, yet it is one of the 10 deadliest in the world. I don't know about you, but that makes literally no sense.

7.) Sand Tiger Shark
Sand tiger sharks are accredited with a whopping 1 fatal shark attack. For the record that is 1 fatal attack in... 431 years. These sharks are so slow moving and tolerant, one would really have to try their best to tick it off in order to get it to bite. From working with this species of shark, I've learned that despite their fearsome looks, they are incredibly tolerant. Again, I hardly view this species of shark as a "deadly" shark.

6.) Grey Reef Shark
Yet another baffling claim. Grey reef sharks are another species of shark that are credited with 0 fatal attacks on humans. Meaning... This species of shark has never killed a person. Despite this, it ranks in at number 6 on the top 10 deadliest shark list. Notice a trend here? So far none of these sharks can really be deemed deadly. The closest you get so far is blue sharks, but again 1 in every 100 years or so is hardly deadly.

5.)Shortfin Mako
The fastest shark in the world ranks in at number 5 in the top 10. The number 5 shark is credited with a whopping 2 fatal attacks on humans. Despite their fast speed and ability to leap into boats, there are still just 2 people who have been killed by these sharks. Hate to beat a dead horse, but really, this is hardly a deadly shark.

4.) Oceanic Whitetip Shark
The oceanic whitetip, the number 4 deadliest shark is accredited with 3 fatal attacks on humans. Considering how much these sharks come in contact with people, 3 fatal attacks in 431 years is really nothing deadly. People fall over a bucket on the beach and die more than being killed by an oceanic whitetip.

3.) Tiger Shark
The first shark that I would even remotely call dangerous. Tiger sharks are accredited with 29 fatal attacks on humans. Still, 29 fatal attacks in 431 years is hardly something to be concerned with. If you have ever come in contact with a dog... That dog has greater odds of killing you than a tiger shark by a very large margin.

2.) Great White Shark
Great whites are probably the most misunderstood shark in the world. They are accredited with more fatal attacks than any other species of shark at 69, but in a 431 year time span, 69 is still a really small number. Despite a large number of fatalities, these sharks are far from man eaters. Nearly every great white attack on a human is the result of mistaken identity. Think about it. Seals make up a large part of a great white's diet. Think about how a surfer looks from underwater. Long body (board) with two front flippers (hands) and two rear flippers close together (feet). Not for nothing but it looks an awful lot like a seal and sharks, with vision not as good as human vision, can simply not tell the difference. The shark bites the person then vanishes. The reason there are 69 fatalities is not because the shark ate the person. The size of a great white and the teeth of a great white make them and incredibly dangerous animal, but deadly? I think I'd rather swim with a great white than a hippo.Hippos kill 2,900 people annually. Sharks, including the great white... Less than 5.

1.) Bull Shark
Bull sharks are an incredibly strange species of shark being able to go into fresh water as well as salt. They are accredited with 26 fatal attacks on humans. 26 fatal attacks makes them the deadliest shark in the world? Really? Yet another species of shark that are just a little more misunderstood than deadly. Yes, bull sharks are a dangerous species of shark, there is no denying that. Deadly though, that's a hard thing to say. On a yearly basis more people die from get this... Vending machines falling on them than from a bull shark.

Out of every one of these species of shark, I find it really hard to consider any of these species deadly. Even the great white I have a hard time calling deadly because they are not out to get people and they don't mean to kill people. Shows that are virtually unfounded like the Top 10 Deadliest Sharks do nothing but increase people's fear of sharks. Your odds of being killed by a shark are so tiny that shows like this don't even need to exist. If Discovery had a show that featured the top 10 deadliest mammals, you would see an insane amount of fatal attacks compared to the "statistics" found in this show. Discovery won't tell you that the lemon, hammerhead, and grey reef shark have killed a grand total of 0 people combined over the last 431 years. Instead they will insist that these sharks are deadly because they bite. Not for nothing, but anything with a mouth can potentially bite.

The great white and bull sharks are the only ones that I can honestly say are dangerous sharks. The bull shark is the only one I can honestly say would bite a person without reason due to their aggressive nature and massive range of prey items. Even with them, often times the shark bites and leaves. No truly deadly animal I can think of would do that. Great whites have been the focus of so many movies and shows that there is this image of Jaws that has put them in a unique position. No other animal on the face of this planet that has killed 69 people in a 431 year time span has gotten so much attention. Trust me there are far more dangerous animals in the world than a great white, but many people don't see it that way. As a result scientists now believe that there are fewer than 3,500 great white sharks left in the world. Still, people seek to kill them in the name of saving lives. You tell me who the deadlier animal is. Great whites or humans.

In conclusion, think about the things you see on the television during Shark Week. I'm sure this stupid show will air once again and will strike fear into many people. Don't let yourselves be one of those people. You just read statistics that come straight from the International Shark Attack File. They are the authority on shark attacks, not Discovery Channel. In reality there is no top 10 deadliest sharks in the world. There are 11 species of shark that have committed a fatal attack, but out of those 11, only the great white, tiger, and bull have killed more than 7 people in 431 years. Seems to me not a single species of shark is really a deadly species, especially when humans kill well over 40,000,000 sharks EVERY YEAR. You can decide for yourselves if sharks are truly "deadly" or not, but according to 431 years of data, I find it impossible to believe they are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Insane Solutions to a Dogfish Problem

Along the East Coast of the United States populations of large sharks have continued to decline. Species including makos, threshers, hammerheads, great whites, and countless others have seen their populations devastated. As a result smaller species of shark have been on the rise. Two of those species are the smooth and spiny dogfish. Both of these sharks can be found all along the East Coast of the United States and has largely been considered a trash fish by fisherman.

Many fisherman regard these sharks as wastes of space. Just because the shark ate their piece of bait, that shark deserves to die. Often times these harmless little sharks are just killed for no other reason other than they stole a piece of bait. Now though these little sharks are facing a much greater threat than an angry fisherman. These tiny sharks are now in danger of joining their larger cousins in the shark finning industry. With the decline of larger species of shark and the rise of dogfish, people are starting to see finning as a solution to the problem.

Dogfish naturally are shellfish eaters and scavengers, preying on crabs, clams, small fishes, and dead animals. Normally, larger sharks would eat these sharks and help to control their population. Thanks to people destroying the food chain, dogfish populations are starting to grow to incredible levels. At the same time, it is becoming harder and harder for fisherman to catch their targeted catch due to dogfish stealing bait. To help curb the growing dogfish populations, some restaurants are starting to make shark fin soup out of their fins. This is an incredibly dangerous practice as that same practice has led to the mass decline in shark populations around the world. Not only is finning dogfish unsustainable, but it is probably the worst way to solve the problem. An alternative? Here is a real simple way to fix the problem and solve another problem at the same time.

Instead of trying to destroy yet another population of animals, why not let nature take its course. Here's how we can do it... 1st: Put an end to shark fishing. This includes shark kill tournaments. 2nd: Keep commercial shark fishing banned for a 10 year period. 3rd: Watch as shark populations begin to recover in the waters off the East Coast of the United States and watch as dogfish populations begin to decrease to a level that they should be at. Realistically, a ban on shark fishing would not really hurt fishing industries half as bad as some people claim. Keep catch and release fishing, have tournaments that are catch and release. Just ban the killing of large species of sharks that naturally prey on dogfish.

As simple a fix as this really would be, in our world, it will probably never happen. So we will once again take things into our own hands and simply use the same methods of decimating large shark populations to destroy smaller sharks. Of course the great reward will not be the fact that shellfish populations would become more secure, the reward would be the amount of money that people would be able to illegally make smuggling the fins onto land. As far as I know, dogfish is not a good tasting shark and as with other sharks they contain a high level of mercury. So their meat will be virtually worthless, but the worth of their fins could easily give people enough reason to slaughter them.

The dogfish problem in the Atlantic Ocean is one that should be dealt with reasonably. Finning is far from that reasonable way of dealing with it. Finning will do nothing but drive dogfish straight to extinction along with the countless number of sharks that are already on their way to being extinct. Every state on the East Coast needs to try and figure out what to do about that problem. New Jersey hosts several shark kill tournaments targeting shortfin mako sharks, one of the dogfishes greatest predators. Even if these few tournaments were to just stop, New Jersey could just see things change in a few years time and the dogfish issue begin to fix itself.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quick Operation Bleeding Seas Update

With the creation of this blog I feel like so far Operation Bleeding Seas is my most successful awareness campaign so far! I'm noticing that more people are starting to read the blogs to which I must say thank you all! So far I have blogged about mostly sharks, but also about whales. Sharks will continue to be the focal point of the campaign and expect to see stuff about manta rays popping up a lot more soon as well.

I've said it once and I will say it again and again, my goal is to make at least one person realize what we are doing to the creatures that live in the Oceans and have that one person tell another. The chain reaction can be something spectacular.

From the war to save sharks, to saving whales in the Southern Ocean, to saving the most gentle of rays, to saving an animal whose intelligence rivals our own... I will not stop and I will not be silenced until things in this world change. People can focus on who's running what country and who's causing wars all they want. Despite all of that one thing will not change. If the Oceans continue to be destroyed the way they are now, nothing else will matter because each and every one of us are going to suffer the most dire of consequences for our actions. The food chain is something that is taught very early in school and it is something that we as humans take for granted and interject ourselves into where we have no business being.

So thank you all again for reading so far and I do hope you continue to read and help spread the word about our bleeding seas. Any feedback is welcomed!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Tides of War Are Turning

Saving sharks has often been described as an not winnable war. Shark finning was long thought to be a practice that could not be brought down as long as the demand for fins remained so high. Sure it was illegal to fin sharks in United States waters, but who cared? Smuggling in fins was easy and there was plenty of demand in many states. Suddenly though the outgoing tide on sharks went slack. The state of Hawaii became the first state to outright ban the possession of shark fins, therefore banning the sale of shark fin soup! The decision shocked the world and woke a lot of nations and states up to what was really going on in the Oceans. Soon after, the states of California, Washington and Oregon all came up with similar laws that banned the possession of shark fins. Illinois then became the first land locked state to ban the possession of shark fins. Nations such as Guam, the Galapagos Islands, and more recently, Venezuela have created shark sanctuaries and some have even gone and flat out banned the possession of shark fins entirely.

Shark fins have always had a massive demand in the nation of China, but even there, the tide is starting to turn. Just mere days ago, China announced that it has banned shark fin soup from all state banquets. While that may not seem like much, it very well could be a strong sign of things to come. Many hotel chains and resorts in China have also stopped serving shark fin soup, still though many people view the soup as a prestigious item to be consumed thus the demand for fins remains high. The word is getting out. Shark finning is an incredibly dangerous practice that needs to be stopped. Facts spread like wildfire and more and more people are joining to fight for an animal that they may have never even seen before.

Conservation groups, both aggressively and passively have really stepped up their fights for sharks. Both Shark Angels and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have launched campaigns in an effort to help police shark sanctuaries and bring shark fin poachers to justice while continuing to educate native peoples about these amazing animals. At the same time, groups such as Shark Savers continue to spread the truth about sharks and shark fin soup through educational means and petitions. The pressure is mounting around the world for a worldwide ban on shark finning. It is a deadly race against time. One can only hope that the whole world wakes up and sees the danger that shark fin soup creates. This planet can simply not survive without sharks. Without them, the Ocean will become a barren, toxic desert that will spread to all life, yes even humans, on land.

 As long as the Oceans still run red with the blood of sharks, the war will rage on. As more and more people join the fight for sharks, the poachers become more and more desperate. As more people learn the truth about shark fin soup, the more demand will drop and the value of fins will plummet. The tide that had been going out on sharks for so long has finally gone slack with sharks in an absolute state of desperation. With the latest announcements from China, Venezuela, and the state of Illinois, the war on shark finning has reached a turning point. At this point things can go two ways. One way is that the world can look at all of these nations, states, territories, etc. and simply ignore them and continue to destroy shark populations until there are simply none left. Or the chain reaction will continue and the race to save these animals will continue. The only way this can happen though is if people continue to be unrelenting in their personal efforts to save sharks.

Visit these websites and learn what these groups are doing, and what you can do to help sharks in your neighborhood. It does not matter if you live near a beach or inland. You can make a difference!