Friday, December 28, 2012

The Perfect Pet?

There is a growing trend out there and it involves pets. No it does not involve dogs and cats. It does not involve reptiles or birds. It does not involve insects. It does not involve mammals. It does involve fish. In fact it involves a certain type of fish. This type of fish is commonly known as the shark. The growing trend is people trying to keep sharks as pets. You might recall walking into your local pet store and seeing some small fresh water fish labeled as sharks, such as the iridescent shark, but in reality these animals are not sharks and are not the animals this blog is going to be about. The animals I am referring to are large species of shark that are found in the Ocean. Some of the most common species of large shark that people keep as pets are... Get ready for this... Blacktip reef sharks, lemon sharks, hammerhead sharks, nurse sharks, and the bull shark. So the point of this blog is really going to by why each and every one of these sharks are by far the worst pets in the world and should never, ever be a part of a household aquarium. First though, I will list some species of shark that people do keep as pets with success. As you may expect, these are small species of shark.

Two of the most popular are these guys, the brownbanded and whitespotted bamboo sharks.


Both of these sharks are naturally small, growing to be between 3 and 3 and a half feet.They are both bottom dwelling sharks that feed largely on shellfish. Their teeth are flattened and designed to crush shells rather than tear flesh from fish. They are not aggressive at all and spend most of their time resting on the Ocean floor. This makes them a favorite among those who decide to keep sharks as pets. Another small species of shark that is a favorite among many people is the epaulette shark.

Much like the bamboo sharks, these sharks are bottom dwelling sharks. They grow to be about 3.3 feet in length and feed mostly on shellfish. As with the bamboo sharks, this species of shark is not aggressive at all.

Those are probably the top three of the popular small sharks that people keep as pets. Despite not even being four feet long, all of these sharks still require large tanks as at night they can be active swimmers. Despite not normally eating bony fish, these sharks are still capable of eating small fish and will do so if they are not fed enough. Personally, I do not think any species of shark should be a pet. If I had my way, it would be illegal to own a true shark. However, this is not the case, and some people do enjoy having sharks as pets. If you feel the need to own a shark, these three species are probably your best bet. Now lets move onto the not so good, but very popular choices.

The first shark that a lot of people try to keep in their household aquariums is the blacktip reef shark.

Commonly confused for the blacktip shark, the blacktip reef shark is not as large as it's cousin. However, this shark can still reach lengths over 5 feet. They are fierce night time hunters and must swim in order to breathe. What this means is that even as babies, blacktip reef sharks require a ton of swimming space. They must be kept in almost a constantly lighted tank or they will start to feed themselves with the other fish in the tank. Many times people do buy these sharks as babies, when they are roughly 16 inches long. They have no clue how big they get and then all of a sudden they are dealing with a 5 foot long shark and an aquarium that cannot support it. Often times, these sharks wind up being donated to Aquariums or being released into the Ocean. Either way, these sharks often run into problems. In the wild, the young sharks are not accustomed to having to feed itself as they do eventually associate people with food. They run a greater risk of being killed by fisherman or accidentally biting a swimmer to try and get it's attention to feed it.

Compared to the other sharks, the blacktip reef shark is somewhat small. The next shark is the lemon shark.

This one hits a little closer to home for me. I actually had the privilege of working with the beautiful shark in the above picture. When lemon sharks are born, they are very small. In fact, some are born at roughly 1.5 feet in length. That is a tiny little shark. This is when people buy them and think they just got a great pet. This species of shark can grow to be over 10 feet in length. Generally speaking, this makes them far too big to be kept in a household aquarium. Even at a young age, lemon sharks can be very aggressive and will not hesitate to bite fish that are both smaller and larger than itself. While in captivity these sharks appear to develop some form of neurological issue that sees them lying on their back convulsing as if they were having a seizure. The sheer size of this shark should be enough to deter people from trying to keep this animal as a pet, but alas it does not. Seeing a lemon shark having to live in an Aquarium is heartbreaking to say the least as this animal really does not do all that well in captivity, but once it lives in a household aquarium and develops that neurological issue, it in all probability would never survive in the wild. As mentioned at the start of this little section, I worked with this specific shark. I can tell all of you that she is doing very well in her new home. However, her place should never have been in an aquarium, let alone a sporting goods store.

Next is a shark that isn't really that aggressive, but gets very large. That would be the nurse shark.

The nurse shark starts out small, roughly 1 foot in length. The perfect length for many household aquariums. What people do not realize is that nurse sharks grow to be 14 feet long. Much like the lemon shark, this puts it way out of the range of the household aquariums. They are nowhere near as aggressive as lemon or blacktip reef sharks as they are bottom dwelling sharks, similar to the small bamboo sharks. Just like the bamboo sharks, this shark will usually eat shellfish. However, this shark will also make a meal out of small bottom dwelling fish as well. Despite being such popular pets, the nurse shark really has no place in a household aquarium. They grow to be far too large and people who keep them, subject them to growth issues and other physical and mental problems that come as a result of being kept in such a small environment.

The next two sharks blow my mind that people even try to keep them as pets. They are the hammerhead and bull sharks.
All right, here we go. First of all, all three species of hammerhead sharks are endangered species. In order to have one as a pet, you are supposed to have special permits, same goes for the bull shark despite it not yet being an endangered species. As with most things though involving pets that people really shouldn't have, people tend to ignore the rules. (Example: Keeping alligators as pets in New Jersey) Hammerheads (with the exception of the smaller bonnethead) start their lives at a cute little 1.6 feet or so. Similar to the lemon shark, they grow to be about 10 feet in length (except the bonnethead that gets to be between 5 and 6 feet). Their hammer shaped heads are even more sensitive than those of the other sharks mentioned. That being said, it is highly suggested that hammerheads are not kept in square tanks. If you ever happen to see a hammerhead, or bonnethead for that matter in a public aquarium, take note of the tank it is kept in. Chances are it is a rounded tank with no true corners. For some reason, corners seem to through the senses of a hammerhead into a spin. This makes keeping them as a pet that much more difficult as the majority of household tanks are square. They can be quite aggressive and their size easily complicates keeping them as pets. Hammerheads are constantly on the move, so they require a ton of space to swim.
The same can be said for the bull shark. They are highly migratory, which means they are constantly on the move. In the case of the bull shark, there is a certain appeal to having one of the Ocean's apex predators living in a person's house. Bull sharks, at birth, are around 2.5 feet in length. Just like the other sharks I've mentioned, the bull shark gets quite large, maxing out at around 8 feet. As with the other sharks, this makes it very hard to house them. They are also the most aggressive shark in the Ocean so it really goes without saying that anything living in an aquarium with them is basically free game.

As i mentioned earlier, I do not think any species of shark should be allowed to be kept in a household aquarium. At this point I also feel that any species of shark that does not breed in captivity should not be in captivity. As amazing as it is to work with sharks, so many of them are threatened with extinction that taking even one out of the Ocean can really affect their numbers. However, for a species that breeds in captivity, I see no reason for them not to be ambassadors of their species. My stance on captivity has been posted in several blogs, so I am not going to go into detail about it here. So, in conclusion, if you absolutely HAVE to have a shark as a pet, go for one of the smaller species I mentioned. Remember though, a shark is a shark, even though it may not be aggressive, it is still higher on the food chain than the other fish in your tank. I'm sure you can figure out the rest. Also, if you HAVE to have a shark as a pet. Do yourself, the sharks, Aquariums, and the Oceans a huge favor. DO NOT PURCHASE ANY SPECIES OF SHARK WITHOUT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK ON IT FIRST!!!!!! Thank you all and have a Happy New Year!!!!!!!    

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Whale, Dolphin, Shark Blog

Greetings all. Fast approaching is that famous time of year where families come together to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and (yes that passed already, but still) the New Year. (Sorry for not mentioning the other holidays, happy whatever holiday you celebrate) The same can be said for myself, so this will probably be, barring any major news, the final blog until after Christmas. I'll do a big fat fun one before the end of the year kinda recapping my two campaigns. Anyway, here we go with some whale, shark, and dolphin information that may or may not come as a surprise to you.

As of this morning, the Japanese whaling fleet finally left Japan en route to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. This departure came less than 24 hours after the United States courts decided to tell Sea Shepherd Conservation Society not to interfere with the whaling operations. How the United States has any say over what four vessels registered in Australia and New Zealand that are in international waters is beyond me. Why the United States failed to look at the fact that Australia has a court order that is supposed to keep the Japanese whalers out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The United States President was supposed to aid in seeing an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean, but so far he has not done that at all. Hope is far from lost though when it comes to saving the whales. Sea Shepherd remains 100% committed to securing the whale sanctuary and are not going to submit and allow the whaling to occur. They are currently waiting on board 4 ships, just waiting for the whalers to come in range. This year, the Japanese cut their quota in half. Throughout the course of the past two years, Sea Shepherd interference kept the Japanese from catching 50-75% of it's quota, so the reduction in quota does not come as a surprise to many. It is pretty safe to say that things in the Southern Ocean will soon heat up. I will do my best to share my views and major news on Sea Shepherd's Operation No Compromise. I won't be covering everything, but as whales are certainly something I strive to spread awareness about, I will certainly cover the more important things. For everything involving Operation No Compromise visit

The cove was blue for the second straight day. Nearly all of the dolphins that were in the cove for 6 days were taken for a life in captivity. While these dolphins will be able to live, their lives have changed forever. Though I am for captivity, I am for responsible captivity. As far as I am concerned, any dolphin that is taken out of that cove in Taiji and sent to a marine park has no business being there. Any trainer who goes to the cove and selects and purchases one of those dolphins are one of the most irresponsible trainers in the world. They bear witness first hand to the brutality that occurs in the cove and do nothing about, say nothing about it, but hand money right over to the very people who simply will slaughter any of the dolphins left over. Safe to say these trainers really don't care for the dolphins themselves, rather they care for the money that they will bring to them in the future. There are many places that house dolphins that do it responsibly, using captive bred dolphins and even if they are from the wild, they do not come from the cove in Taiji. The real drive behind the slaughter is money of course. The amount of money the killers in Taiji make from selling a dolphin to a trainer is incredible. On the flip side, the market value of dolphin meat is very low. If the killers simply killed the dolphins, they would make very little money. It is the sale of live dolphins to trainers that keeps this slaughter going.

Shark protection continues to slowly pick up momentum, but the clock is still ticking on many species. Earlier this month, France created the largest shark sanctuary in the world for all of a few days! The sanctuary is located in the south Pacific. After just a few days, the Cook Islands created an even bigger shark sanctuary, a sanctuary that is roughly the size of Australia!!! French Polynesia also listed the mako, the last shark not protected in it's waters to it's protected list. Following in the footsteps of the United States, the European Union (EU), passed a vote to strengthen it's laws against shark finning. The EU did this by doing the same thing the US did, closing the loopholes in the laws by forcing all sharks that are landed to be landed in tact. As 2012 comes to a close, things are starting to look up for sharks. Time is still running out though. According to the WWF, roughly 73 million sharks are killed every year. More and more sharks are dying and due to their low reproduction rate, they are stepping closer and closer to extinction. Still though, things are starting to look up. 2012 thus far was a decent year for sharks, but there is still much work to be done.

Well there you have it folks, the last blog before Christmas. Thank you all again for reading, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. I hope you all have a great holiday and I will hopefully blog again before the New Year. Just because I will not be blogging until after Christmas doesn't mean that Operation Sadistic Truths is on hold. I will continue to post news, photos, etc on Facebook as my work on there is a part of this operation to spread awareness to as many people as I can.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Ongoing Nightmare In Taiji

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Cove Guardians have been documenting and bearing witness to a horrific scene. 5 days ago a pod of roughly 100 bottlenose dolphins were herded into the killing cove in Taiji. Up to this point, over 70 of these dolphins, mostly babies, have been ripped away from their families to become show dolphins somewhere in the world. This brings up the first point in this blog.

Here we are, the year 2012, some 48 years after the debut of the show Flipper. This show and movies have inspired the imagination of countless men, women, and children to become dolphin trainers or at the very least have an interest in these amazing creatures. Of course at the time, there were far fewer dolphins in captivity than their are today. Bottlenose dolphins do breed in captivity. Meaning that at this time, there is zero need to be taking more of these animals out of the Ocean. As I already mentioned, at least 70 dolphins have been removed from the cove destined for a life in captivity. The horrific nightmare these animals face in the cove is truly what it is, a nightmare. These dolphins have been swimming in the cove, netted from freedom, starving, and watching their loved ones ripped away from them one by one. When a dolphin is selected for captivity, it is netted and dragged to a separate holding facility until it is ready to be shipped to where it is going. While in quarantine, the dolphins undergo a heartbreaking training procedure that includes removing the animal from water for an extended period of time. While the killers are attempting to catch one of the dolphins, they show no remorse for the other dolphins in the area. Some of the dolphins are reported to have injuries from boat propellers and two are reported to have died via drowning after being caught in nets.

The nightmare currently going on in Taiji, Japan, is the perfect example of what gives captivity a bad name. The brutality that both these trainers and killers are showing live to the world is nothing short of a tragedy. All these people see are the dollar bill signs that each of these dolphins represent. They don't see them as incredibly intelligent animals that have the mental capacity that probably exceeds some humans. They don't see them as incredibly complex animals capable of communicating with one another and even existing in large family groups. The Cove Guardians have been on watch each and every day and have been broadcasting a live feed at showing these terrible acts to the whole world. Whatever dolphins that are not chosen for a life in captivity will certainly be slaughtered. Next thing to happen will be the killers will return to the sea and bring in a whole new pod. The process will repeat itself because the life of a dolphin is worth more money than the life of the dolphin itself to these people.

Is there an alternative to all of this insanity? The answer is yes. I would love to see a comparison. The amount of money a dead dolphin or a dolphin en route to captivity versus the profits of a touring company that takes people onto boats to watch dolphins in the wild. Sadly, we probably will never know the actual statistic in that comparison since Japan is so dead set on slaughter. For constant updates on this nightmare visit the Cove Guardians Facebook Page.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sea World's "Vicious" Dolphin...

Earlier this month, a video surface of a girl getting bit by a dolphin at Sea World. If you are looking for the video, here it is.

After watching this video several times there are a few things that should really be brought up. First of all, a program like that where guests are allowed to feed large marine mammals with teeth is a set up for disaster. Yes, many zoos and aquariums offer feed the animal programs. Adventure Aquarium for example allows guests to feed stingrays in their ray pool. These are not monster rays. They are smaller species or younger animals that even if they did bite a person, the damage would be minimal, resulting in at most a bruise. Of course, human error can lead to bites as is evident in this video.

One of the rules for this encounter is do not lift the paper plates. Sure enough the girl lifted the paper plate and the dolphin did what it was TRAINED to do. It wasn't the fault of the dolphin in the least bit. Sure you can place a portion of the blame on Sea World for not having tighter regulations and allowing the same program that got 2 people bit a few years back to continue. You can also put part of the blame on the girl. At 8 years old though, how much better can one expect her to know. Really, you could put blame on the parents as well for not assisting the staff of Sea World in watching their daughter and making sure she followed the rules.

In the end though, 3 people getting bit by dolphins at Sea World should really be enough to see an end to or a total reconstruction of that program. Some people want to see this dolphin put down. How in the world can anyone justify that? The dolphin did exactly what it was trained to do. Nobody should want to see this dolphin killed for doing what it was supposed to do. Sea World should really take this incident as an opportunity to educate people on dolphins. I say that because the father of the girl who got bit basically said he had no idea dolphins were capable of biting. Really? Yes. This is where Sea World needs to start being better educators. If an establishment with animals is going to exist it really should exist for one reason, education. Sea World is famous for it's shows. Other facilities are famous for being great education locations.

In the end though, this "vicious" dolphin is totally innocent. The fault of this "attack" lies in the hands of Sea World, the parents of the girl, and the girl herself. Any questions? Watch the video closely and all will really become clear.

If an animal, like a dolphin, is going to be in captivity it should be an ambassador of it's species not a toy for human amusement. That though is a blog for another time... Perhaps next time...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Twelve Days That Changed the World

Have you ever wondered where the idea for the major motion picture, Jaws, came from? Perhaps I should ask have you ever wondered what real event inspired Peter Benchley to write the book? This blog is a step back into time to the second month of World War I. The President of the United States was Woodrow Wilson, and at that point, the United States had not yet entered the war. Wilson was doing everything in his power to keep the United States out of the war, but in the end his efforts would not prove fruitful as the United States did enter World War I. That however, is a different story. In New Jersey the summer of 1916 was already something different to the state. First, the amount of people who were leaving the cities and heading to the shore was staggering in 1916 due to a polio epidemic that was occurring in cities. Second, the summer of 1916 brought on an oppressive heat wave which drew even more people to the shore. Interestingly enough, it was an election year and due to the oppressive summer, President Wilson had moved from the White House to his summer home in Asbury Park, NJ. That alone brought the eyes of the United States to the Jersey Shore.

1916 was a year that was just a few short years removed from the Victorian Period. It was a time of great scientific and technological advances for the United States and gave rise to a rather arrogant and smug attitude in many of the people. (Remember the Titanic sank in 1912 after being declared "unsinkable") With that being said, many of the discoveries that were made were not really applied. (The American Museum of Natural History had fish and insects on display together) With all of that being said, the scene was officially set for what would become the most horrific summer New Jersey had ever seen. Before I go on I feel the need to remind you all that this is an entirely true story. The events that took place from July 1st through 12th, 1916 are all described as best I can.

July 1st 1916: Philadelphia native Charles Van Sant had was staying at the Engleside Hotel in Beach Haven, NJ. It was on this day that he decided to play with a dog in the water. Upon his return to shallow water, he was bitten by a shark. The lifeguard claimed that the shark was still biting Charles and following them to the shoreline. Charles Van Sant would bleed to death and his death certificate stated "Bitten by a shark while bathing". This marked the first time that a shark was blamed for the death of a human in the United States. The reaction of the attack was underwhelming. It received no national attention and didn't really appear anywhere outside of Philadelphia newspapers.

July 3rd, 1916: Bellboy Charles Bruder of the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake decided to take a swim on his break. Bruder was attacked by a shark. Before he bled to death, he stated the following words, "a shark bit me". He also described his attacker as "a big gray fellow, and awful hungry". The reaction to this attack was much greater. Beaches from Point Pleasant to Sandy Hook were all ordered to get all swimmers out of the water. This was the first coastwide shark alarm in the United States. Word of the attack on Bruder spread like wildfire and was seen on the covers of newspapers in New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. Scientists of the time were very reluctant to call the attack on Bruder a shark attack. Many believed the culprit was either a German U-boat, sea turtle, orca, or a giant mackerel. Governor Fielding blamed a sea monster. The director of the museum, Dr. Frederick Lucas stated that "a shark is not particularly strong in the jaws", meaning that a shark could not cause injuries seen on Bruder.

July 9th, 1916: The impact of the shark attacks faded and beaches all up and down the Jersey Shore were packed again.

July 12th, 1916: Sitting roughly 30 miles north and 16 miles inland of Spring Lake is the town of Matawan. In a time before child labor laws were around, a popular break time activity for kids was to take a swim in the Matawan Creek. Thomas Cottrell, a retired captain spotted a shark swimming in the creek. He quickly ran to town and alerted the townspeople who dismissed him, after all, the Matawan Creek was largely fresh water and was at least 16 miles from the Ocean. Young Lester Stillwell would become the third victim in the 1916 shark attacks. He would go swimming with his friends on his break from work. Lester's friends quickly ran to town to get help. The first to respond was Stanley Fisher, who while searching for Lester's body, was also attacked. About 3/4 of a mile away from the chaos, Captain Cottrell managed to get to a group of boys who were swimming and directed them out of the water. As Joseph Dunn tried to get out of the water he felt a bump and then was bitten on the foot. At first, the doctor who was treating Dunn was afraid to touch the wound because it was believed that shark bites were poisonous! Dunn would become the only person to survive the 1916 shark attacks. Finally, Dr. Lucas's associate, Dr. Nicholas, declared that it could not possibly be an orca that was attacking people as it would not fit into the creek. Thus the shark became the number 1 theory.

Aftermath: Mass chaos had erupted up and down the East Coast. Fisherman began to kill any and all sharks seen in an attempt to kill the "Jersey maneater". Sharks began to appear in political cartoons while scientists quietly changed beliefs that sharks were not dangerous. The attacks nearly crippled New Jersey's economy. Vacancies in hotels from Cape May to Spring Lake was roughly 75%. The residents of Matawan began throwing dynamite and shooting any shadow that appeared in the creek. Even President Wilson called a special cabinet meeting to figure out what to do about the "shark horror that was gripping the Jersey Coast".  

July 14th, 1916: A 7.5ft great white shark was caught about four miles away from Matawan Creek. Dr. Lucas determined that 15lbs of flesh and bone found inside the shark were human, but could not conclude if they were in fact remains of those attacked.

Over 50 years later, Peter Benchley wrote the novel Jaws which turned later into a movie by the same name. It is no secret that Benchley became a shark advocate and stated "Today the shark in Jaws could not be the villain: it would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressor". Great white sharks became one of the most hated animals on the planet as a result of these attacks. The blame though is probably undeserving. Great white sharks can simply not survive the conditions of the Matawan Creek. Bull sharks however, can. So it is entirely possible that a bull, not a great white was responsible for these attacks. One of the most staggering questions though is why did these attacks take place at all. Each one can be broken down into possible theories. Personally, I do not believe there was a man eating shark in 1916. Reason for that is each and every one of the people who were attacked were recovered. Even Lester Stillwell's body was recovered. After being alone with the shark for a good period of time, the shark could have easily eaten him, but it didn't.

In the case of Charles Van Sant: Van Sant was swimming with a dog prior to being attacked. Dogs are awkward swimmers and the noise and vibrations that sharks can detect from a dog swimming are thought to rival that of a wounded fish. The shark in all probability thought that Van Sant was a big wounded fish. To top it off, he was alone, another common factor in shark attacks.

In the case of Charles Bruder: Bruder was swimming in an area by himself. Again, this has become a common occurrence in shark attacks.

In the cases of Lester Stillwell, Stanley Fisher, and Joseph Dunn: The Matawan Creek is incredibly murky. The visibility is virtually zero. For a shark not relying on it's sense of sight, but just what vibrations it is sensing , it really would be incredibly easy to see how the shark can mistake a human for a wounded animal. Kids splashing and playing in water is very similar to a wounded fish. In the murky creek, the shark was most likely confused.

So here are some statistics now so you can all see just how freak of a twelve days these were. According to the International Shark Attack File, there have been 18 shark attacks in New Jersey. Out of those, 6 were fatal. The last fatality that was blamed on a shark was in 1960. That mean 18 shark attacks in the last 342 years. On a terrible other side. In New Jersey alone, hundreds of sharks are killed every year. The 1916 shark attacks were a terrible event, but at the same time it was an incredible learning experience for scientists. As a result of these attacks, we know so much more about sharks and how to avoid shark attacks. The things I mentioned above are not reasons that I just made up. They are legitimate reasons for shark attacks. Reasons that were unknown in 1916. If we knew then what we know now about sharks, these attacks could have possibly been avoided. Also, partially as a result of these attacks, sharks have been nearly driven to extinction.

Thanks to Jaws and other movies people in the United States as well as other places around the world are still mortified by sharks. The monster that sharks have been portrayed as is one of the most undeserving portrayals in the world today. For an animal that kills on average less than 5 people every year, they have a worse reputation than animals that kill hundreds of people every year. As far as the man eaters are concerned... They simply do not exist. Well thanks for reading, I hope you understand how freak of an instance these attacks were and how far we have come since then. I also hope you read my other blogs that go into detail about the plight that sharks currently are facing.

As horrific as this story may be, their story is one that is far more horrific and disturbing. Roughly 40 million sharks are killed every year. They need our help. We are their only hope and their greatest threat. If we do not save these animals than people's greed and fear will drive these animals to extinction, which is forever.