Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Final Solution in Australia and Ominous Signs in New Jersey

First off, I apologize if the title of this blog has offended anyone, it was not my intention to do so, but it is the topic of this blog.

This past summer sadly saw more shark attacks in one place than any year in recent memory. In Australia, 5 people were killed by sharks off of beaches on the western side of the continent. Since that time there has been an explosion of shark hate and fear, the likes that rival that of the fallout from Jaws. What that means is no good for sharks. In this case, it means that the premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett has issued a final solution for sharks in Western Australia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "final solution" I will break it down. The Final Solution was Hitler's master plan to eliminate the Jews from the world in an effort to make a "safer and pure" Germany. The effort would lead to the Holocaust in which millions of Jews and others lost their lives for essentially being who they were. Much like Hitler did to the Jews, Barnett has called for the total destruction of sharks. 

Yes it is a very sad thing that 5 people were killed, but there are many factors that need to be remembered. Factors that Barnett clearly has no intention on remembering. First is the overall odds of a shark attack. Statistically speaking you have a better chance of a vending machine falling on you than a shark attacking you. You have a better chance of being killed by ants, yes ants, than being attacked by a shark. Needless to say, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning, being in a car accident, or drowning in your bathtub than you do of being attacked by a shark. So the question is why the sudden tiny increase of shark attacks off the coast of Australia? Realistically, nobody knows 100% for sure, but there are several reasons that could have caused the increase of shark attacks in the area.

1.) Overfishing: Much like in the United States, fish populations are decreasing. What that means for the sharks in Australia is that their food is vanishing. So, the sharks start to look elsewhere for their food. They move closer to shore and happen to see a surfer on a surfboard. Chances are that shark has never seen a human so it goes in for a curiosity bite. The sharks are not trying to eat people at all in this case as none of the 5 people attacked were eaten. Simply put. Lack of fish in the Ocean does to sharks what massive food shortages do to humans. It makes them desperate and not want to starve so they move in closer to shore since they can't find food in the open Ocean, and sadly wind up accidentally getting themselves involved with people. In the case of people, starving and desperate people have been known to actually eat each other. So the concept of starvation and desperation should not be new. 

2.) Accidental Baiting: Sharks have an incredible sense of smell. They can sense a drop of blood in water from a mile away. Australian fishing boats could very well accidentally be attracting sharks closer to shore. One very popular method of fishing is called chumming. For those who don't know, chumming involves throwing ground up fish into the water to attract larger fish. It makes perfect sense for a fisherman to want to do this, but at the same time, chumming can and does attract sharks. Many charter boats are known to start tossing chum overboard while returning from a trip. Sharks can and do follow the chum into shallow waters near beaches. In this case, it is not the sharks fault some people decided to give it a free meal up to the beach. Where there is food, the shark will generally stay until it's ready to move on. 

3.) The Case of Mistaken Identity: This one is pretty simple to understand too. Picture a great white shark swimming through the water. Now picture what a sea lion would look like from underneath. Long body, two short flippers in front and two short flippers in the back. Keep that image in your head and picture a surfer lying on a board from underneath. Long body, two short flippers in front, and two short flippers in the back. Well what do you know? They look quite similar don't they? Almost every time a shark bites a surfer, the shark leaves and does not return. Simply put. WE ARE NOT ON THE MENU. 

So here is the plan. The plan in Western Australia, if implemented would be simple. Hire people and spend tax dollars on killing every single shark that is seen near a human in the Ocean. Sounds like a joke right? It's not. This plan would see men on beaches with weapons waiting to blow any sharks head off if it is seen near a human. I really have to stress the word any because there are many endangered species of shark that can be found in the waters of Western Australia. One of those is the Great White Shark which is estimated to have a global population of roughly 3,500. In a sense, this call to exterminate sharks would be the same as calling for the extermination of whales or any other endangered animal on land or sea. The ironic thing in this case is that the animal that is being exterminated is responsible for less human deaths than household dogs every year. The basis of the plan is to increase security at beaches for surfers and swimmers. Not for nothing, but if there is a moving shark near me I am not going to want anyone shooting at an animal that is right next to me. The danger of that in itself would be enough to deter me from going into the water. Chances are high that someone will accidentally be shot which will do nothing but cause more problems. 

If this final solution in Australia occurs we could see a drastic change in the local scene out there. Different species of fish will start to take over and local fisheries could easily find themselves with far more problems than a lack of fish. With no sharks the seas simply cannot survive which brings us to an incredibly ominous sign that has started to happen in New Jersey.

There has been much talk about the cost of living going up everywhere. Gas prices are insanely high, food costs more than it did, taxes are up, etc etc. Hidden by the increasing costs of seafood, in this case scallops, a much larger problem lurks. This year, New Jersey saw an increase in the price of scallops. To fisherman the price increase means more profit which makes them happy of course, but the concerning statistic isn't the fact that the price went, it's why. The increase in the price of scallops is not a part of the ever increasing cost of living. The number of scallops caught this year was far less than in years prior. What that means is less supply and a high demand. This caused the prices to go up. There are simply not enough scallops to go around anymore and I have a gut feeling that we will continue to see a decrease in scallop catches over the next few years. Now what does all of this have to do with sharks? The answer is simple, the food chain. Over the last two years New Jersey and other east coast states have seen a sharp rise in ray populations. Naturally rays eat shellfish such as clams, scallops, etc. In New Jersey, a ray has virtually no predators. The majority of sharks that come close to shore in New Jersey generally do not eat rays. These species include sandbar sharks, young sand tiger sharks, dogfish, and others. Naturally, large species of shark keep ray populations in check. Despite so many shark sightings this summer, there were virtually no sightings of sharks that often prey on rays. The one exception was the sighting of a lone hammerhead. Tiger, bull, large sandbar, hammerheads, dusky, and porbeagle sharks all eat rays and are normally seen off of New Jersey during the summer. Over the past few years though this has simply not been the case. 

What we are potentially seeing here is the start of a food chain collapse. Man kills over 70 million sharks every year for various unsustainable and twisted reasons. There are not enough sharks left in the Ocean to effectively keep food chains together anymore. With the lack of sharks in New Jersey, here is what is starting to happen. Ray populations are increasing rapidly as shark populations decrease. As a result, shellfish populations are decreasing rapidly. Shellfish are filter feeders which means that as they vanish, water qualities will begin to change. With no food left the rays will eventually die off and all that will be left is an Ocean in chaos. Not only will this particular food chain collapse, but it will cause the collapse of countless others. Shellfish are so important to the Oceans that in reality, without them there can be no clean Ocean. The only hope the shellfish have is that sharks are saved now. Sharks are the only thing preventing the seas from becoming barren underwater wastelands where nothing will be able to survive. In the end that spells just one thing for life on land... Death...    

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