Friday, August 30, 2013

Operation Forgotten Gives Way to Operation Kibou

Hey everyone. Operation Forgotten is at an end and I have to say without a shadow of a doubt that it was by far the most successful campaign yet! Just a few things that came out of this campaign that hasn't happened on this blog before.
1.) The blog "Mako Horror" became my first blog to have over 100 viewers and was featured in the Shark Research Institute's Newsletter.
2.) The 3 Shark Week reaction blogs each had over 75 viewers.
3.) Bluefin tuna became a part of a campaign.
4.) This blog is now featured on the Shark Research Institutes webpage. That's for anyone who is interested.

You might think, 100 people? That's not a lot. Well to me it is. This campaign is the first that did not see an average of 10 or so people viewing the blog. Rather the average daily visits were somewhere between 40 and 50 with Shark Week and the week I posted Mako Horror being significantly higher. The point is, this blog is growing. For a campaign that wasn't even sure if I was doing. I think it's a pretty big deal. Now enough about all that. Let's wrap this campaign up shall we?

Operation Forgotten featured 18 blogs dedicated to the protection and conservation of sharks, manta rays and bluefin tuna. All of these animals are being horribly overfished for various reasons. Sharks are being killed at an alarming rate for their fins and it is now believed that roughly 100,000,000 are being killed on an annual basis. The fins, used for shark fin soup, are the main reason people are killing these animals as some fins can sell for over $15,000 USD. Of course for a fin to sell that much it must be pretty large. In fact it probably would belong to the whale shark, the gentle giant of the sea.

Sadly even they are not immune to finning.

Sharks are still being exploited all around the world. New Sci-Fi movies such as Sharknado sparked a renewed fear in quite a few people while Discovery Channel's Shark Week flopped with a mockumentary full of false information and an overall lack of actual scientific shows. I guess it's really all about reality T.V. and blood and gore now. The fight to save these animals continues on and I now know more than I ever have that time is running out. We know so little about these animals yet they have been on this planet far longer than we have. We need to stop all of this senseless killing and allow these animals to recover because without them, there is a good chance that we all die. To top it all off, we don't even truly know how many species of shark exist. We do however know that at least one more than we originally thought exists! Here it is literally walking along a reef! This new species of shark was found off of Indonesia!

The fight to save manta rays and bluefin tuna also continues on. Both of these animals are quickly being depleted from the oceans of the world. The majestic manta ray continues to see it's populations plummet in the face of so called "traditional" Chinese medicine. They are being killed for their gill rakers which have many rumored benefits, but no confirmed benefits, and contrary to popular belief, are not a part of Chinese Traditional Medicine. The gill rakers can fetch a moderate price in markets, but compared to the amount of money that is brought in through manta ray tourism, the number is extremely small. Meanwhile, the demand for sushi around the world continues to rise causing bluefin tuna more and more problems. These large fish are simply being fished out of existence and the regulations that are in place are not by any means enough. With large populations being illegally fished, the future of the bluefin tuna remains unclear. As nations come together to try and preserve these animals, which I believe there is little time to do, the bluefin tuna continues to be fished to extinction. New regulations are being made, but they are largely short term solutions and do not really protect the populations of these animals over the long run, which needs to become more of a priority.

So Operation Forgotten is now at an end. Hopefully if you take anything out of these blogs it is that all of these animals still need our help. While the whole Miley debacle on MTV holds center stage in so many people's minds, we tend to forget that animals that balance the oceans are simply being slaughtered. We tend to forget that there is so much illegal or unregulated fishing going on in the world that some animals will simply go extinct if nothing is done. As grim as it seems there is hope. Hope that it is not too late and that is what will drive my next campaign that starts this Sunday. Operation Kibou.

Operation Kibou (Japanese for Hope) will, as last year's fall/winter operation, focus on sharks as well as dolphins and whales. If anything major comes up regarding the conservation of manta rays or bluefin tuna I will be sure to bring them to the operation as well, but the primary coverage will be on those three animals. Two major things will take place during this campaign and all we can do is hope they end. One will take start on September 1st along with Operation Kibou. That would be the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. After a few months the Japanese whaling fleet will once again attempt to go to the Southern Ocean to kill hundreds of whales in defiance of a ban on commercial whaling. As I did last year, I will keep you all updated on what Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is doing to prevent the Japanese from whaling in the whale sanctuary.
The fight to save sharks is never ending and is my main fight. With that being said, expect there to still be blogs about these animals as the race against time continues and hope still remains. Thank you all for reading Operation Forgotten and I truly hope you will all join me again on September 1st for Operation Kibou!

Bluefin Tuna May Get New "Rules"

News has come out that fisherman may have to abide by new rules regarding bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The new rules include the banning of long fishing in certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico during April and May. That is probably the best part about these rules. The rest of the rules state that long line fisherman will take a hit of about 7% in their quotas. Once a boat reaches their limit, they would have to stop using the lines. The rules also state that any vessel using long lines that are not intended for bluefin tuna would be allowed to keep one bluefin tuna for every 2,000 to 30,000lbs of their intended catches. The new rules would also force long line fisherman to keep track of any bluefin tuna that are caught on their lines, even if they are thrown back. These rules sound like a great plan, but they lack a few things.

First of all, there is no physical way to track whether or not the fisherman are actually keeping track of their catches. If a fish gets caught, there will be nobody there to force a fisherman to record whether or not the fish was ever even caught. Another thing that is lacking is a solution to bycatch. These animals get caught on long lines and die long before some fisherman even know they are there. For those fisherman who are not licensed to catch bluefin, but are going to be able to keep them anyway, there is nothing stopping them from catching bluefin and claiming that they are bycatch. There is one foolproof way to put an end to the bycatch and waste of this endangered species. That would be an all out ban on long line fishing. Not only would this drastically reduce the amount of bluefin tuna being caught as bycatch, but it will also drastically reduce the bycatch of other animals including sharks, rays, seals, sea turtles, birds, etc. Long line fishing is one of the greatest hazards that Oceanic wildlife has to deal with. Lines can extend over twenty miles in length and are not monitored nearly as well as they should be, often leading to the death of an incredible number of animals that the fisherman were not even targeting.

Governments can put as many rules and regulations out there to protect bluefin tuna as they like, but the fact remains. That fact is it doesn't matter how much protection you give them if long line fishing continues to be legal. Yes, these protections will help by limiting the use of long lines, I am not denying that at all. What I am saying is that it will only do so much. There is still that untold number of bluefin tuna that are dying without any records being made because they are considered bycatch and from what I have seen from many fisherman, I seriously doubt that many instances of bluefin tuna bycatch will be recorded.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sharks: Monsters or the Most Misunderstood Animals on the Planet?

Before I start off this blog I have a pair of announcements.

 The first of these announcements is that this blog is currently on The Shark Research Institute's webpage. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, whether it be your first time reading, or you've been reading since the start, I strongly suggest you visit . That is the website for The Shark Research Institute. There is a plethora of shark information and other shark related news, blogs, and educational materials. I am beyond excited to be on their webpage and am hoping to be able to work with them more in the near future. To anyone who is visiting this blog from The Shark Research Institute would like to say welcome and I hope you enjoy the read!

The second announcement is that this blog will be one of the final blogs of Operation Forgotten so within the next few days I'll do a quick little summary of everything that I covered over the summer. My next operation will be called Operation Kibou. Kibou is Japanese for Hope. The campaign will focus on sharks, dolphins, whales, and to a lesser extent, manta rays. As was the case last year, I will be following Sea Shepherd's Antarctic Campaign. I will also be keeping watch over the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji Japan. To top it off I will continue to blog about sharks, the animals which I personally think are the most important in the sea. Manta rays will not be majorly featured, but if any news involving them breaks, I will be sure to bring it here. As I said, there will be a very short break in this blog. Operation Kibou begins on September 1st... With that all being said, it is time for this blog to get underway.

Sharks have been portrayed in the media as complete and total monsters. The real question though, is is that the reality of sharks? Are they really the monsters that we see in the movies and on T.V.? Common sense would say of course not. However, many people do not feel this way. Ask around and chances are someone who doesn't know much about sharks will say they are dangerous animals that will attack a person should the opportunity present itself. Lets take a bit of a closer look at some of the most famous, or infamous shark movies that are out there and break them down and hopefully make some of the doubters see just how wrong they are. Lets start out with what is a very strange movie about a shark with two heads. This film is called "Two Headed Shark Attack".

Right off the bat, the title of the movie should bring some questions to the seriousness of this movie. Do two headed sharks exist? Yes they do, but they typically do not seem to live for very long. With that being said, do two headed sharks grow to massive sizes and consume everything in their paths including outhouses, and entire landmasses? I think not. In this movie, a two headed great white shark literally wrecks an entire island. Even causing a tsunami to hit the island. No species of shark has the ability to do this. Even the shortfin mako, the fastest shark in the sea, can not even remotely make a wave anywhere near large enough to flood an island. Getting back to our crazed two headed shark... At one point, this shark literally crashes through an outhouse on land and attempts to grab some visitors on the island. It is true that on occasion some sharks will actually beach themselves while chasing fish, but they are not beaching themselves to grab any people. Sharks cannot breathe on land and when they get on land the last thing they want to do is bite a person. In fact when they beach themselves, they want one thing and one thing alone. That of course is to get back in the water.

The next film is more of a hit, but still shows sharks in a light that they really haven't earned. It came out in theaters a oouple years ago and goes by the name of "Shark Night".

By more a hit I mean it actually made it to theaters. Anyway. This film features a group of 7 friends at a vacation home at a salt water lake where 15 species of shark just lie in wait for the friends to enter the water. In this lake the movie showed great whites, hammerheads, sand tigers, and tiger sharks. Apparently other species of shark also exist in the lake, but they weren't seen? So the first thing that I am going to point out is that sharks typically do not live in lakes, even salt water lakes. In fact, the only land locked body of water that I've heard of sharks living in is some golf course in Louisiana where a family of bull sharks got trapped during hurricane Katrina. Other than that, have never heard of sharks living in salt water lakes. Speaking of things that don't frequent salt water lakes... There are lily pads in the lake... Lily pads do not grow in salt water... It is true that some sharks are social. Sand tiger sharks for example are known to spend the daytime hours hovering in groups in caves. However, sand tigers, great whites, tigers, and hammerheads are not known to live with eachother at all.

Third lets quickly look at the most famous shark movie ever made. "Jaws".

The film that started it all. The film that started the whole shark fear epidemic that has gripped the world. The film that started the mass hatred that seems to exist towards sharks. The shark in that movie was was a very, very poor example of a great white shark. First of all great whites do not get quite as large as Jaws. Great white sharks do not mindlessly hunt down people for their next meal. Nearly all shark attacks involving great whites involve one bite and one bite alone. After that bite, the animal usually vanishes, hence they have no interest in eating us. Great whites are known to occasionally approach boats for a closer look, occasionally using their mouths to figure out just what the boat is. This actually happened this summer off of Atlantic City, NJ. There was a white shark that approached and apparently investigated the boat by gently biting it. They are not known to leap onto the back of a boat while roaring and snapping their jaws.

Those are just three examples of shark movies. All three of those movies in some shape or form portray sharks in a very negative light. Since "Jaws" there have been many, many shark movies that have come out. All with similar stories. Sharks are hungry and want to eat you. Even in 2013, people are still scared to death of these animals. So that is sharks in hollywood. Lets now take a look at sharks in real life.

Did you know that every time you step into the ocean you are stepping into the back yard of sharks. Chances are while you are swimming, surfing, etc. there is a shark swimming by you. Whether or not the shark is large is beyond the point. Sharks are sharks. They are always there, but rarely interact with humans and when they do interact with us, it is out of curiosity and not out of bloodlust. They protect the delicate balance of the seas. They hunt down and remove the old and weak out of the oceans. They keep fish populations strong and secure.

 They use their amazing and extraordinary senses to seek out their prey and mates. They are the kings and queens of the seas, but they reproduce so slowly that their populations are not exploding whatsoever. In fact, due to all the things we are doing to them and doing to the oceans, their populations are actually collapsing. Some species of shark have seen their populations decline by an very, very alarming 99% since the 1970s.

It's a scary fact, but it is a true fact. Many people still think that sharks are the monsters that are seen in movies like "Jaws" and "Shark Night". People are killing sharks for their fins, their teeth, their skin, but rarely to eat. So who is really the monster? Is it the animal that is responsible for keeping the delicate balance of the oceans in tact? Or is it the animal that dumps millions of pounds of trash, oil, and other things into the sea? Is it the animal that occasionally may bite a person? Or is it the animal that kills over 100 million of the other animal every year? Is it the animal that has existed since before the time of the dinosaurs? Or is it the animal whose only been on Earth for a few thousand years and has managed to reach the moon, but only scope out 5% of the ocean? I think the answer is pretty easy. I think the two different animals are easy to distinguish as well. One of them is the shark.

 The other is man.

 So who is the real monster? In my opinion, man is by far the real monster. We have virtually destoryed the oceans. We have destroyed the rainforests. We kill over 100 million sharks every year. Sharks kill on average, fewer than 10 humans per year. If your knowledge is based on movies, then you would think it is the other way around, but this is the truth. This is the reality of the world we live in. We have brought the oceans to their knees and there is only so much time left for us to act and reverse the damage we have done to sharks and the other animals of the sea.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bleeding the Seas Dry

Hello again everyone. I hope you are all doing well. Personally, I have a bunch of new and exciting things going on in my life and to top it off, I have decided that I will not be ending this blog this fall. This summer was really eye opening and made me realize that the fight to save the animals that I have blogged about will never be worth giving up on. I will fight for these animals until either they are gone or I am gone because each and every one of them have a purpose on this planet and frankly each and every one of them are beautiful in their own ways. So that is a tid bit of news on this end. Now onto the blog itself...

The other day I was out on the Ocean, and no sooner did I exit the Manasquan Inlet did I spot a pod of dolphins. Naturally I had to stop the boat and try to get some pictures. The pod probably had somewhere between 20-30 bottlenose dolphins. It was a quiet morning so as each one came up for a breath of air, I could literally hear them blowing air out their blowholes. Suddenly the lead dolphin lept a good part of the ways out of the water and took a dive. Literally like a flock of birds, every other dolphin followed and were simply gone. No waves made, perfect dives. Odds are they found some food down below, but I sat there for a little bit and just had to think. How could anyone kill these animals? Eventually I came upon some lobster fishing grounds and it looked like a recreational fishing bonanza. Boats to the north, south, east, and west. Boats all over, but from what I could see, all abiding by the rules and regulations of fishing. I saw several fish get tossed back into the sea including "pest fish" such as sea robins and skates. People fishing to feed themselves and their families and doing it in a sustainable way. That's how I personally feel it should be. Then the harsh reality hits. I look to the east and there is the big commercial fishing vessels.

While the recreational fisherman take their 1 or 2 fish home to cook and eat, just one of those fishing boats are literally scooping thousands of fish and shellfish out of the water in the matter of minutes. Entire schools of fish just wiped out by one boat. Entire beds of clams taken out of the sea. Of course it is for human consumption, but the problem is that it is just far, far too much. Sea food is incredibly popular around the world and the demand for it is going nowhere but up. As the world becomes more and more overpopulated, more and more fish are needed to fufill the needs of man. Whether it be the rapidly reproducing capelin or the slow reproducing sharks, there are simply no longer enough fish to go around.

What we are doing is literally bleeding the seas dry. Anything short of algae and jellyfish and a few other select animals, we seek out, kill and eat. Commercial fisheries make a ton of money, no doubts there, but what happens when the fish are gone? What happens when human greed takes everything the sea has to offer? What happens when unsustainable fishing methods set the tone for fishing around the world? The answer to all of those questions are quite simple. Nothing good. I did a blog a few weeks ago about the oceanic food chain and the effect of taking an animal like a shark out of the equation. Simply put, the enitre food chain falls apart leading to a vastly different ocean that what we have today. Here is where the above dolphin story comes in. In early July, dolphins were found washing up on beaches in New Jersey with large knife and net wounds. One dolphin was cut from its throat to it's gut. Literally just sliced open to die. Why? Why did this happen and who are the culprits? I have a gut feeling that the answers to both can be found in commercial fishing. Chances are these dolphins got caught in a drag net, damaged it, and as a result of that damage, they were brutally killed. It sounds barbaric, but I honestly think that is exactly what happened. I have never met a recreational fisherman whose ever wanted to harm a dolphin. I even know one who accidentally snagged one. As soon as he realized what was going on, he cut the line.

Despite laws and regulations, commercial fishing often plays by its own rules until it is caught in the act. Way out at sea, there are no police boats to check catches and make sure everything on board checks out. There is no prevention or punishment if endangered species get killed in the process. It's a sick industry that needs to be seriously looked at. Bycatch is by far the most alarming thing to me about commercial fishing. Some companies do certainly go through their catch and toss back undesirables, but I have seen some really eye opening things in flats of frozen fish. I once saw a flat of atlantic butterfish that had more young squid in it that butterfish. I've seen flats labeled as frozen mackerel consist of roughly 50% mackerel and %50 herring. I've also seen flounder, herring, and other species of small fish in capelin flats. The most alarming to me though is that I have found spiny dogfish in flats of both herring and mackerel. Spiny dogfish are listed as a species vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN's red list. You might say, "okay so that's one or two sharks it's not really a big deal". Well it is a big deal because if a flat has one or two that means chances are good other flats in that shipment probably have them and who knows how many were shipped other places as bycatch. It's scary if you seriously think about it.

This summer I've heard more and more people saying that sharks are coming closer to shore and nobody knows why. I am certainly not a scientist by any means, but I think the reason that these predators are coming closer to shore is obvious. Commercial fishing has to take place a certain distance from the shore. Normally, these species of shark that are being seen inshore tend to stay just offshore where these fish are. The fish however, are no longer there due to being fished out. So the sharks move inshore and eat the fish that are their. It's not that sharks are "getting braver" or "more bold" when it comes to approaching the swim zone, but they are doing what they have to do to survive as we continue to just eliminate them and their food source from the planet.

Commercial fishing isn't going to go anywhere and I totally understand that. I just fear that sooner than later we are going to have a crisis on our hands because facts are facts. The world's fish stocks are plummeting and it is not due to so many people going out to catch 1 or 2 fish. It is becuase these commercial fishing vessels are pretty much taking what they want, when they want, and how they want. If they get caught doing something illegal, they pay for it and move on. Afterall, what is a fine compared to a massive amount of money in the pocket? This past spring there was a fleet of menhaden fishermen just off of Long Branch, NJ where they were not supposed to be and they got away with it. They weaved right through the recreational fishermen who were fishing for bass and scooped up all of the menhaden, literally hundreds of thousands of fish gone in one foul swoop, in waters that they are not supposed to be doing it. I don't know if anyone called to have them stop or what, but I'm guessing chances are not good with that.

Sharks, dolphins, mantas, bluefin tuna, whales, and just about every other animal in the sea are nearing a state of peril. They all need our help and I will continue to fight for them on here and hopefully out in the field as long as I am physically and mentally able to do so. Stay tuned because Opertaion Forgotten is not yet over.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Why Save Mantas?

Manta Rays are one of the oceans most beautiful animals. Sadly though the gill raker trade continues to lead to more and more mantas being killed on an annual basis. Despite being so large that virtually nothing in the Ocean will eat them, man continues to decimate their numbers. So what would the world be without manta rays? Honestly, the effects of losing manta rays would be nowhere near as devastating to the oceans as losing sharks would be, but it is a safe bet that the local seascapes would drastically change as other animals rush in to take the missing mantas place. So the ultimate question becomes why save mantas then?
For one, mantas are gentle giants. They are a miracle of science or God, whichever you believe in is your choice obviously, but take a closer look at them.

Now this animal looks like a massive stingray, but it's not. It has no barb to sting with. The tail is just a tail. With a body that size one would think it takes a lot of effort for them to move. Watching these animals swim in real life, I can honestly say that is not the case at all. With just one flap of their wings, these animals are able to glide for a long distance. These animals literally look like jets soaring through the water as opposed to the sky. It was really something incredible to see. If you haven't seen it before, check out videos of mantas swimming to get just a taste of what I'm talking about. There is one downside to these animals though. They are not cuddly and fuzzy like say panda bears. Many people wouldn't even say that manta rays are cute. Sadly looks do seem to mean something in the animal world when it comes to people wanting to help them. That's a topic for a different blog though. Most people would say that the fact that these animals are so majestic isn't enough to warrent saving them when the gill raker trade can bring in so much money to impoverished areas over a short period of time.

As much money as the gill raker trade brings in though, it is absolutely dwarfed by the amount of money that manta ray tourism brings in. For example. Data from just seven different locations around the world states that annual revenue from manta ray tourisim is roughly $27,000,000. Yes that is twenty seven million dollars U.S.. That is a ton of money and that is just from seven locations around the world. Imagine what the worldwide revenue of manta ray tourism must be. The number has to be astronomical. Now for the value of an entire manta ray in a market place. On average a manta ray is worth roughly $500 U.S.. The number of mantas being killed annually is roughly 97,400. Unless my math is wrong, and I do admit math is not my strong suit... On average worldwide about $48,700,000 is made every year from manta rays in markets. Yes that is a large number, but again. Look at the tourism number of just seven locations. Common sense would say that chances are good that if that data included fourteen locations, the number would be right there with that 48 million. That's fourteen locations versus the profit of the world's manta fishing. Sure, harvesting manta rays for their gills can earn people a quick buck, but once those mantas are gone then what? The tourism industry dies and in some cases, some of those small towns and villages could see an economic collapse. Mantas have so much more financial value to the world, but due to false medical claims these animals are being wiped out.

As with shark fin soup, many people think that consuming manta ray gill rakers will give them some kind of miracle. Just a few of these supposive miracles include curing the common cold, chicken pox, swine flu, bird flu, SARS, and cancer. As great as it would be to have an all in one cure for those things, manta ray gills are simply not the answer. Despite these eastern claims, there is literally no scientific proof of any of it. Gill rakers are sold as part of traditional Chinese medicine, but nowhere in the 6,400 articles of traditional Chinese remedies is there any mention of manta rays let alone gill rakers. In short, they are not truly part of traditional Chinese medicine, rather they are advertised as such to try and increase sales and value. As with many other sneaky moves that have been discovered in commercial fishing, gill rakers are normally labeled as Peng Yu Sai which translates to Fish Gills. Therefore many sellers and consumers are not even aware that they are selling or buying manta ray gill rakers. While on the topic of traditional Chinese medicine, Peng Yu Sai does not appear in the the Traditional Chinese Medicine reference manual either.

It is painfully obvious to see that once again commercial fisherman are exploiting an animal that can make them a quick dollar. Very similar to the people who go out and fin sharks or kill dolphins and whales, these people are looking to make a fast dollar and it works. They label their products with a questionable and very broad label to trick the general public into buying or selling the product. They hae no regard for the animals they are hunting and will hunt them to extinction if nothing is done about it. Manta ray protections are starting to increase, but it is not yet anywhere near enough. Far more sharks are being killed every year than mantas, but to give you an idea as to just how in danger manta rays are I'll give you all a true statistic. Throughout the entire course of a female manta ray's life, she may give birth to less pups than a great white shark would give in a single litter. It is currently thought that great whites give birth to anywhere from 2 to 10 pups in each litter. That means that manta would give birth to less than 10 pups throughout her life. That is a very, very slow reproductive rate that cannot withstand serious fishing pressure for any length of time. The time to save manta rays is now, but the question is will enough people rally behind these amazing animals before they vanish forever?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Shark Week Blog 3: The End of Shark Weak

Shark Week this year has, in my honest opinion ruined Shark Week entirely for me. The more I watch, the more I've come to realize that Shark Week is not the Shark Week I grew up watching. Growing up, I didn't know much about sharks. Frankly I was willing to watch Shark Week and accept most of it as fact. I have several Shark Week DVDs in my personal collection and I still pop them into my DVD player from time to time and now knowing far more than I ever did about sharks, I came to the conclusion that a lot of it is exaggerated, but the scientific content was largely true. This year though, the new shows have done nothing but disappoint me time and time again.

The show on Megalodon was interesting for sure, but it was not a true documentary. There were no whales washing up with massive bites. There was no boat that mysteriously sank. To top it off the "researchers" turned out to be nothing more than paid actors. Meaning that Shark Week kicked off with a sci-fi movie. Not surprising, Discovery Channel on their website had a poll as to if Megalodon exists. Over 70% of the people said yes after that show aired. Discovery literally crammed false information down our throats and now there is a massive wave of people who are fearing a creature that for all we have known for a long time, doesn't even exist. I've read several articles claiming that with this show, Discovery has jumped the shark sort to speak. I tend to agree with that.

The shark after dark show is just an absolute joke. I've watched it twice and I think I've learned literally nothing about sharks. I feel like this show is nothing more than a very, very poor attempt at trying to bring the magic that other after shows such that Deadliest Catch and The Walking Dead have. Seriously though, when this is a part of that show, nothing about it can be taken seriously.

The scientific "facts" that the shows have been stating have also severely disappointed me. Just off the top of my head, two instances of me putting the palm of my hand over my face were as follows. In discussing what great white sharks eat, the video was of sea lions swimming around. The narrator called them Pacific harbor seals. I work with seals. The things on the T.V. were by no means seals. Now though, an unknown number of people think that Pacific harbor seals and sea lions are the same thing. Another instance was when they were listing different species of shark that live in a certain area. The video showed several different species of shark, but not the bull shark. Rather they showed lemon sharks as bull sharks. Again, a totally different animal. As small as these things may seem, they shouldn't be happening. Discovery Channel claims that Shark Week is all about education and conservation. The last time I checked false information is not educational at all. If I didn't know any better and I was someone living in say, the desert, I would potentially have never seen a real seal. So by watching Shark Week I would have learned that seals and sea lions are the same thing. That's just fantastic isn't it? Conservation? From what I watched the only hints of conservation were embedded so deeply in all the blood and gore of the week that they were not noticable in the least bit. Not once did I see any form of ad or statement saying that roughly 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year. Not once did I see any form of explination on what shark finning or long line fishing are. Discovery, if you want to say Shark Week is about conservation, step up and deliver. Don't sit there and say one thing and do another. You want controversey? Try playing a documentary like Sharkwater as opposed to that horrific Megalodon show and you'll get a controversy that actually matters.

I was hoping that Shark Week would be one week that Discovery Channel actually got away from reality T.V. and went back to it's roots and actually educated people on something that matters. I wish I could say that I am surprised, but I'm truly not. Year after year, Shark Week has been getting more and more away from the point that it claims to be making. The point being that the week is all about conservation and getting the truth about sharks out in the open. If that was the case, I wouldn't have to be typing this blog. If that were the case I wouldn't have both friends and family thinking for sure that an animal that has been extinct for millions of years sudenly has come back and is hunting humans. I wouldn't be having to tell people that seals and sea lions aren't the same thing. I wouldn't have to do a lot of things if Discovery would look at it's programming and choose what it actually wants to put out. If they want Shark Week to be a sci-fi horror show along with mockumentaries, then put it out there that that is what it is. Not educational or factual, just another week of terrible shark shows that do nothing but instill fear and hatred in people for these animals.

On a scale of 1-5 I personally would give this year's Shark Week a weak 1 out of 5. The shows were largely lacking and not for nothing, but some of the information was just flat out untrue. Afterall. How can a shark be on a top 10 deadliest list without killing a single person? Makes no sense to me. This was easily the worst Shark Week I've ever seen and I have a feeling that next year will stick to my DVDs and watch actual informative Shark Week shows as opposed to the wannabe reality/sci-fi garbage that was on my T.V. for the past week.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shark Week Blog 2: The Glory of it All

Shark Week is known for instilling excitement, wonder, fear, and fascination in people and their feelings towards sharks. Last night, Discovery Channel aired a, what I found to be pretty interesting show entitled "The Return of Jaws". The show focused mostly on a group of researchers who used some ground breaking technology to follow great white sharks just off the coast of Chatham, Mass. The team used a robotic submarine camera to follow large great whites to study just how close these animals are coming to shore.

Surprising to some, New Jersey is home to seals in the winter time. What does this have to do with anything? Quite a bit actually. During the fall, great white sharks migrate from the north down to Florida. During that time, the seals migrate from the north down to states such as New Jersey, which is why during the fall, there are often several great whites spotted off the Jersey Shore. During the spring as you might be able to guess, the opposite happens, the seals move north and the sharks follow. The summer home of both sharks and seals in areas such as Chatham has caused more and more people to become wary about swimming in those waters. This is where these researchers come in.

Using that robotic sub, the researchers were able to see great whites swimming in as little as 3 feet of water while stalking seals. It was really interesting to see how these animals on a daily basis appeared to move up and down the coast, not bothering any people whatsoever. Then, of course, is where the show changes and that need to not just be an interesting documentary shows up. The screen turns to a flashing ambulance light as a swimmer was bitten by a shark off of Chatham. The show that had virtually nothing to do with shark attacks, except for the occasional mention that these studies could potentially help beach patrols make beaches safer, suddenly became focused on a very minor shark attack. The person who was bit by the shark received, if memory servers, 24 stitches. No severed limbs or anything like that, just one bite and the shark was gone. Of course there was no mention of there being just one bite and the shark vanishing. That final few minutes of the show once again brought into light what I think the real reason for Shark Week is.

At this point I believe that Shark Week is a week long Hollywood wanna be program. Virtually every show makes mention of the name Jaws and even if it doesn't, in some shape or form, it involves sharks biting people. There are a few exceptions to this, but for the most part, these are facts, just take a look at the names of some of this year's Shark Week Programs. The Return of Jaws, I Escaped Jaws, Spawn of Jaws, Sharkpocalypse, The Top 10 Deadliest Sharks. Where in those names is there even a hint that there will be some form of education to be had? Nowhere. Obviously that wouldn't make people tune in, so titles that sound like B level Sci-Fi movies are used and sure enough, the audience is drawn in. It is no secret what the movie Jaws did to the reputation of sharks around the world. That damaged and undeserved reputation continues to stick in the minds of many people and Discovery Channel is doing nothing to help ease that by naming these shows in this way. The content of the shows themselves aren't much better than their names. Lots of blood, lots of attacks, and a wee bit of science and an occasional 15 second conservation thrown in to try and make everyone happy. It's not hard to figure out what the intended audience is though. It's not the people who are interested in learning the truth about sharks, that is evidenced twice already this year by taking a very interesting show about tracking great whites and giving it a pretty frightening name and throwing in shark attacks. It is also evidenced in the Megalodon show as many of the images and "video" appear to not even be real. If those people had video proof of Megalodon, do you think it would still be labeled extinct?

It is understandable from a business standpoint as to why Discovery would market Shark Week in this fashion. I'd be shocked if even a quarter of the people who watch Shark Week on a nightly basis would tune in if there was no blood, no violence, and no cool show names to lure them in. At that same time, there is so so much more Discovery could be doing to help promote shark conservation through the week. For example, how much would it realistically cost to put up graphics at the end of a show that states a truly harrowing fact? That by the end of Shark Week, up to 4,500,000 sharks will be killed. Would it truly be so hard for Discovery to do that? Why can't Discovery do more than show a 15 second conservation message (to which I have yet to see this year) about finning? If Discovery truly had any interest in protecting these animals they wouldn't be so quick to make them out to be such monsters. Shark Week rolls on tonight with two more shows featuring Jaws! One can only assume that these shows will further instill fear into people and make them want to never go into the Ocean again, but more importantly, instill fear for an animal that has done nothing to warrant the reputation that has been forced upon it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Shark Week Blog Number 1: Mega Mystery

Ok everyone. Originally I was going to do a Shark Week Review at the end of the week, but I figured I'd pick a few shows to review. What does this have to do with conservation you ask? Don't forget that the media does play a substantial role in why so many people are afraid of sharks. So even though these blogs won't exactly be focusing on 100% real issues, they, just like any other sci-fi show can affect people. So without further delay. Here is what I thought about a pretty interesting show entitled Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives.

I want to start off by saying that this show reminded me of a documentry with a sci-fi/horror twist. The interviews in some cases were mildly creepy I thought complete with some eerie music and a black and blurred background. Anyway the show itself brought up an interesting question. Does the ancient fish known as the megalodon exist today? For those of ou who did not catch the show and have no idea what a megalodon is I'll briefly explain it to you. While we have no skeletons of the ancient fish known as the megalodon, scientists believe that the animal grew to be over 65 feet in length. That is more than 20 feet longer than the current largest fish in the world, the whale shark. The jaws of this animal, needles to say were also quite massive as fossilized megalodon teeth have been found, some being about the size of an adult human hand or bigger! This predator would have been able to eat pretty much anything it wanted to including whales. Chances are, outside of other megalodons, the megalodon had no real predators. Getting back to the show.

The whole show was based off a mysterious sinking of a boat off of South Africa, one of the world's great white hotspots. Apparently whales had also been washing up on shore with massive bites taken out of them around the same time that this boat sunk. Personally I don't think these bites were from the ancient fish. In South Africa, and other parts of the world, great white sharks have been known to dine on large whale bodies together. There is evidence of this in several other Shark Week programs where video is actually taken of the sharks doing this in groups. To me, the photos that the show displayed claiming to be megalodon bites looked a bit photo shopped, but I could be wrong. If that's the case, then I believe that those bites were probably from a group of white sharks doing what they do best. Either way, I feel that if megalodon was really near South Africa, somebody would have by now gotten some kind of actual picture of the creature or at the very least a credible camera would be able to pick up on it. Now for the ultimate question... Is megalodon still alive?

It's really a loaded question. From time to time animals show up that we thought went extinct long ago. The Colecanth and Giant Squid are two examples of animals that for a long time people believed to not exist anymore. Strangley enough both of these animals and another known as the megamouth shark all inhabit the same area of the sea, the deep Ocean. If and that's a big if megalodon still exists today then in my opinion, that is where he would be. In the deep Ocean. I do not think it would be the same megalodon that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago, but one that has adapted more to life in the deep Ocean. If you think about it, millions of years ago, megalodon would have been eating large fish and even dinosaurs and the first whales. Well below the surface we know that there are large animals. There are large sharks, squids, whales, and various other giants that would probably make a real meal for megalodon. Personally I am not looking much into megalodon still existing today. As much as I would love to hear news someday that this creature still exists in the deepest parts of the Ocean, I just don't see it happening. Still though that's just another part of the mystery of the Ocean. In total we've only explored roughly 5% of the world's oceans so again, anything is possible.

As for Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives. I think it was a well thought out show that really brought back the question as to if megalodon still exists today. The way in which they go about doing it though I feel was a bit too sci-fi for what was I think supposed to be a convincing documentary? I'm not really sure what the show was going for, but again that very real question was flung back into the light. Sadly though if things keep going the way they are in the oceans, we will probably never know if megalodn still exists because even if it does now, it wont soon. The modern day sharks are being wiped off the face of the Earth and while this at this time wouldn't effect megalodon if it's alive, when the oceans fall apart and the oceanic climate goes through rapid and dangerous changes due to sharks being killed off, it certainly would.

Does megalodon exist? Perhaps it does. Perhaps it doesn't. There is no evidence saying it does, but then again, there is no evidence in my opinion that it doesn't largely thanks to humans only exploring about 5% of the oceans. I can say for sure though that if we as humans do not step up and save our oceans, the answer to the question will be a big fat NO along with any other species of fish, marine mammal, marine reptiles, aquatic birds, and just about any animal, including humans that live on land.