Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sea Shepherd Locates the Japanese Whaling Fleet

    Hello everyone and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and whatever other holiday you choose to celebrate! Just a few minutes ago on Sea Shepherd Global's Facebook page it was announced that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has located the Japanese Whaling Fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. According to the Facebook post, the two Sea Shepherd vessels located one of the harpoon vessels in thick fog hiding out behind an iceberg. The harpoon ship apparently emerged from behind the iceberg and took a collision course with the two other ships, though no collision was reported.

    This marks the first meeting between the activists and the whaling fleet in a few years. Last year, Sea Shepherd continued to battle the Japanese whaling fleet in court as it illegally returned to the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary while it also operated an operation against illegal fishing in the area. At the time, the Sea Shepherds did not have a ship that was not already involved in another campaign capable of outspeeding the whaling fleet. The year before that, the whaling fleet took a year off after their whaling program was deemed to be commercial and not scientific.

    So what does the discovery of a harpoon ship mean? Well it means that the factory ship is close by. If the factory ship is located, the Sea Shepherds can do what they have done in the past and block the slipway of the factory ship. That action prevents the whaling fleet from transferring whales from the harpoon ships onto the factory ship. In years past Sea Shepherd has had varying success in keeping near the factory ship. Some years were more successful than others, but all seasons have done big time damage to the profits of the whaling fleet as they have had to continue to dedicate resources to try and shake Sea Shepherd. Every day that they are dealing with Sea Shepherd is a day they are not whaling. The biggest advantage the whaling fleet had in years past was speed. The whaling fleet had even upgraded it's aging factory vessel to give it more speed and with some help, it would be able to get away. Another advantage of the whaling fleet is the numbers game. The whaling fleet at one point had three harpoon ships, the factory ship, a security ship, all down in the Southern Ocean opposing what was three Sea Shepherd ships. This year though the game has changed a bit. The numbers game remains in favor of the whaling fleet, but this year, Sea Shepherd has the speed advantage with their new ship.

    In years past, when the Sea Shepherds located a harpoon ship, the whaling fleet would begin to move around and the harpoon ship would tail the Sea Shepherds and keep the rest of the fleet alerted to where they were. Now though the harpoon ship will be able to follow the one, slower Sea Shepherd vessel, but the new one will out-speed and eventually vanish off the harpoon ship's radar. At that point the ship will potentially have a clear shot to the factory ship. Sea Shepherd is hopeful that they will have located the factory ship before Christmas. Whether or not that will happen, we all wait and see, but one thing is for sure. The Sea Shepherds have located the whaling fleet and have now began cutting into their profits as they occupy one of the harpoon vessels.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Whale Wars Set To Reignite?

    Greetings everyone. It has been quite a while once again. Since my last blog, life once again decided that it had some other plans for me and I have not been able to actually type up a blog. That's quite unfortunate because there is a lot of stuff that I would have liked to had covered as it happened, but I'll just have to touch on it as I go now. Long story short... Honeymoon planning, work, wedding thank you cards, and various other things all stacked onto one another and really prevented me from blogging. Also, I did not want to post anything during election season considering the issues surrounding both candidates and the varying views on environmental stuff, I did not want the blog to go in a direction I never intended it to go in. With the election over and life finally slowing down a little bit I am happy to be sitting at the keyboard again blogging about things that are going on in our Oceans. Awareness and education remain the key of this blog and that continues with this blog entry.

   Japan's whaling fleet has left it's home country and is once again heading to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales for what the country deems as scientific research. Back in 2014 the International Court ruled that Japan's whaling program was not scientific, but commercial whaling which there is currently a moratorium on. So Japan was forced to scrap it's program and the whaling fleet stayed in port for the 2014-2015 season. The following season however, Japan defied the International Court and returned to the Southern Ocean and hunted down roughly 300 minke whales. This number was significantly lower than past hunts which also saw humpback and endangered fin whales hunted as well. The Japanese whaling fleet's quota for this season is 333 minke whales, which is the same as it was a year ago.

    While the whaling fleet steams south, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society continues to prepare itself to once again head south and oppose the whaling fleet. Last year, Sea Shepherd sent one ship down to the Southern Ocean to oppose illegal activities such as toothfish poaching and whaling. They never set eyes on the whaling fleet, but the group did cause all kinds of problems for illegal fishermen in the area. One of the main reasons that Sea Shepherd did not see the whaling fleet last year was that the whaling fleet had a significant speed advantage. Anytime the whaling fleet would have even sniffed Sea Shepherd in the area, they'd be gone. This year though could prove to be a different story as Sea Shepherd has claimed it will once again be going to the Southern Ocean to oppose Japan's whaling program directly. The group is hoping to catch the whaling fleet with their brand new ship "Ocean Warrior".

Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
    This ship could once again turn the tide in the battle of the Southern Ocean as it is faster than any ship in the whaling fleet. It also has a helipad so in addition to whatever radar systems the ship has, it will have the added benefit of a helicopter in the sky as well. Perhaps to combat this new ship, or just to increase their area, the Japanese whaling fleet has doubled the area in which it's ships will be hunting. Currently the Japanese whaling fleet is heading south and will remain there until sometime in March, 2017. The "Ocean Warrior" is currently docked in Australia awaiting it's time to head south and try to intercept the whaling fleet.  It is interesting to note that Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson and the rest of Sea Shepherd USA remain unable to assist Sea Shepherd Australia due to a court ruling against them by the United States Government. Only time will tell if the Whale Wars that climaxed a few years ago in a heated season that saw several collisions including one with a refueling ship.

    As I have done in the past I will try to keep everyone updated here on what is going on in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. However, for any breaking news I advise following Sea Shepherd Australia on Facebook and Twitter if they have one and keep watch at . Stay tuned as I will have more blogs coming in the near future. One of my next blogs will probably be an update on the Cove in Taiji, Japan as that slaughter is well underway.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Two More Species of Shark Officially Endangered

    Hello again everyone. Today's blog will be much shorter than my last, but has extremely important news in it. Earlier this month one species of shark was upgraded (or downgraded depending how you look at it) from Vulnerable to Endangered on the IUCN's Red List. Another species of shark jumped from Near Threatened to Endangered as well. In addition, the Bornean Orangutan was upgraded to Critically Endangered... Just one small step from extinction. Today I'll be focusing on the two shark species, moreso one than the other. For more information on the orangutan you'll have to head to google or yahoo or whatever search engine of your choice.

    The first shark I'll admit I know little about as it is not a local species of shark to me and have only been learning about it over the past few days. This species of shark was listed on the IUCN's Red List as Near Threatened back in 2003. Earlier this month it was relisted as Endangered. This species is commonly known as the winghead shark or the slender hammerhead shark. This species of shark can be found in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans along the continental shelf. As is the case with many species throughout this shark's range, this species is dealing with intense exploitation. As with other hammerheads, the winghead shark is highly sought after for it's fins. It is also sought after as one of the few species of shark sold for it's meat (for fishmeal). Extremely high catch rates throughout it's range (with the exception of Australia where populations seem to be a bit more stable) have caused a steady decline in this slowly maturing species of shark. Unlike several other species of shark, the winghead shark currently has no protections other than Australia's fisheries laws.

    The second shark is one that I have blogged about multiple times on this blog and it is quite heartbreaking for me to have to type this out. The second shark on this list was been upgraded from Vulnerable to Endangered. That species of shark is the largest fish in the oceans, the whale shark. As I've mentioned time and times again in the past, this species of shark can grow to be over forty feet and weigh several tons. Despite it's size the whale shark is one of the most gentle fish in the seas. It's throat is about the size of a quarter and it's mouth can open to be four feet wide. Truly and incredible animal, but sadly, an animal that is now endangered. The whale shark inhabits all but the Southern Ocean in areas where warm water occurs. In the Atlantic they have been seen as far north as New Jersey and as far south as South Africa. In the Pacific Ocean they can found from China to Australia. They can also be found throughout the Indian Ocean as well. It is in the Indo-Pacific that these animals are currently facing the most pressure. Population declines are now estimated to be over fifty percent which is a terrible situation. In southern China there is a very large whale shark fishing operation that continues to grow. It is this fishery that is now the largest threat to the whale sharks of the Indo-Pacific. Unlike the winghead, the whale shark does have several protections including being listed of Appendix II of CITES, Annex 1 (highly migratory) of UNCLOS, among others along with various nations have their own laws in regards to catching this shark as well. The whale shark is in big demand for it's fins, liver oil, and meat (used for various products). One whale shark fin can sell for over fifty thousand dollars. These animals now more than ever need our help and now time is clearly their enemy.

Stay tuned for more whale shark related blogs in the near future! Remember. Extinction is forever. If we lose these animals now. We will never have a chance at bringing them back.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Twelve Days of Terror 100 Years Later

    Hello again everyone! I hope everything has been going well with all of you. Today's topic is one that I've been debating on blogging about for nearly a month. I've referenced it a lot recently, so I feel that it'd be good to cover the topic as I can't seem to find a single blog about it on here. That topic would be the events that took place along the Jersey Shore from July 1st through July 12th, 1916. It was during this time that a series of fatal shark attacks sent the nation into a shark panic. The events would later go on to inspire both Peter Benchley's book entitled "Jaws" and the movie by the same name. Since this is a shark conservation blog I want to make a quick statement. This blog is going to 100% true. There are no opinions on these matters as they are historical and did take place. After I've gone through the events I will offer my thoughts on the matter and also go into some of the lasting effects from the events that happened one hundred years ago this past July. Fair warning to those reading, the events that took place in 1916 may not be suitable for all audiences, so if you are easily disturbed you may want to avoid reading.

    What has become known as the twelve days of terror began on July 1st, 1916. Charles Vansant, a 25 year old man from Philadelphia was on vacation in Beach Haven, a small town that is part of Long Beach Island. Before dinner, Vansant decided to go for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Shortly after entering the water, the dog exited the water and Vansant began shouting. Originally bathers and other beachgoers thought that Vansant was simply calling out to the dog. In reality though, he was being bitten by a shark. Once they realized the peril Vansant was in, the lifeguard, Alexander Ott, as well as another beachgoer, Sheridan Taylor rushed to his aid. The two men quickly loaded Vansant into the lifeguard boat. It was there they noticed the severity of the injuries. Taylor claimed that the shark followed the lifeguard boat all the way to shore. Vansant was carried to the Engleside Hotel where he died from blood loss at 6:45pm.

    News of Vansant's death made it to the newspapers, but there was no real urgency. Scientists remained reluctant to admit that Vansant was actually bitten by a shark. Some would only say that he was bitten by a large fish. Beaches along the Jersey Shore remained open. In the days following ships docking in New York and New Jersey had claimed to have seen large sharks swimming in the waters near shore. Vansant's death faded into the back of many people's minds and for a few days things were quiet. Then on July 6th, 1916 the next incident occurred. One of the bell captains at the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey named Charles Bruder, 27, was swimming just over one hundred yards from shore. It was there that a shark bit him in the abdomen. The bite was large enough so sever both of Bruder's legs. Some women on the beach heard Bruder's screams and informed a lifeguard that it looked like a red canoe had capsized. In reality the red the women were seeing was actually the blood in the water coming from Bruder's mid section. The two lifeguards, Chris Anderson and George White paddled out in their lifeboat to Bruder where they realized that he had been bitten by a shark.  The two lifeguards pulled Bruder into the boat, but Bruder would bleed to death in the lifeboat.

    The news of Bruder's death was picked up by far more outlets than Vansant's was. The backlash of the attack had a big impact on tourism as losses following the attack were estimated at $250,000 dollars, which was a lot more money then than it is today. Bathing in some areas plummeted by roughly 75% and the fear of sharks in the United States was really born. In the following days multiple reports of close calls and shark sightings were reported. One of the lifeguards at an Asbury Park beach claimed to have beaten off a large shark with his oar while out on his lifeboat. Armed fishermen also claimed to have chased off a large shark as well at Spring Creek. Scientists advised that that a third encounter with a shark was unlikely, but also advised swimmers to swim in netted off areas that were installed following the first attack. Despite these reports of near attacks, there had been no attacks confirmed, but the shark panic had already set in to many New Jersey beach towns.

    The tense situation would continue until July 12th, where one of the more mysterious and startling things in the history of the state of New Jersey happened. Thomas Cottrell was on his boat in the Matawan Creek and claimed to have spotted an eight foot long shark in the creek. Upon seeing the shark, he rushed into town to warn everyone to stay out of the water. Matawan is a town in New Jersey that is set inland. In addition the Matawan Creek is largely fresh water which is the exact opposite of the salt water of the ocean. The people of Matawan dismissed Cottrell who returned to his boat to warn anyone who may be swimming in the creek to get out of the water. Further up the creek a few boys were swimming. At around 2:00pm a you boy named Lester Stillwell, 11, was one of the boys swimming in the area of the Matawan Creek known as Wyckoff Dock. Stillwell and the other boys attempted to get out of the water when they saw a fin and large dark shape moving towards them in the water. The other boys made it out of the water, but Stillwell was grabbed by the shark and vanished into the murky water.

    The other boys ran back to town to get help. Several men, including Stanley Fisher, 24, rushed to the dock and into the water to try and rescue Stillwell whom the townsfolk believed had a seizure in the water. Fisher located Stillwell's body, but was also attacked by a shark while trying to return to shore. Fisher's left thigh was severely damaged and he bled to death at Monmouth Memorial Hospital. Stillwell's body would be recovered on July 14th. About a half hour after Fisher was attacked Joseph Dunn, 14, was swimming in the creek about a half mile away from where Stillwell and Fisher were attacked. Dunn was also attacked by a shark in the freshwater creek, but was rescued by his brother and taken to Saint Peter's University Hospital where he recovered and was released on September 15, 1916. This marked the end of the 1916 shark attacks, but not the end of the chaos that ensured.

    The people of Matawan took to the creek with guns, nets, and even dynamite in an attempt to kill the shark that had attacked the three young men.

Newspapers featured the attacks with pictures of both Stillwell and Fisher who had lost their lives in the attacks.

    The mayor of Matawan also put out a bounty on the shark of one hundred dollars (worth a lot back then than it is now). While the people of Matawan tried to kill the shark in the creek, elsewhere anti shark measures were ramping up. Armed boats patrolled many beaches and all kinds of theories began appearing as to just what had transpired over the last twelve days. In the days following July 12th, multiple confirmed shark catches were reported. One angler caught a blue shark near Long Branch which is not far from Matawan. Cottrell reported that he caught a sandbar shark near the mouth of the creek on July 16th. The most interesting and seemingly the one with the most impact was the catching of a young great white shark by Michael Schleisser in the Raritan Bay which is very close to the Matawan Creek. The shark was caught on July 14th and was deemed to have human remains in it's stomach by scientists. The shark was put on display in Manhattan, but at some point was lost and the only remains of that shark is this famous picture. 

    Despite the capture of multiple sharks, the theories continued to come in. One captain suggested that the shark was actually a Spanish shark driven to the east coast during the Spanish-American War. Others believed it to be the work of German U-Boats that were in the area. The popular theory that a single "rogue" shark was responsible for all the attacks also came to life shortly after the attacks ended. To this day nobody knows for sure just what shark was responsible for the events that took place in 1916, but knowing what we now know about sharks today, we can see that nearly all of these attacks can be looked at in different ways. Before looking at those different views it is important to remember the time. Science by no means was what it is today back in 1916. The amount that we knew about sharks then versus now is incredible and in the end we still don't know all that much.

    Looking at these attacks in a different view it can be theorized that all of the people who were attacked had put themselves at a higher risk of being attacked. Vansant was swimming alone with a dog. We now know that the awkward swimming of a dog gives off strange electromagnetic pulses that sharks can detect. The shark probably arrived while hunting the dog that had gotten out of the water, still noticed Vansant and took a bite. The big thing here is that the shark did not eat Vansant. Bruder also decided to swim alone and in deeper waters and at a time of day where sharks are now known to be more active. Stillwell, Fisher, and Dunn were all victims of a really freak incident. Seeing sharks in fresh water is rare, even bull sharks are not frequently found in fresh water despite being able to survive in it. The biggest thing the three boys had going against them was the murky waters where even a shark's vision would be reduced which would cause the animal to rely even more on it's ability to detect electromagnetic pulses. In looking at these attacks in this way one could make a determination that all of these attacks really were the result of unfortunate circumstances. As is the case with basically all theories about these attacks. It's a theory and nothing more.

    Since the attacks of 1916, there has been one fatal shark attack in the state of New Jersey. In one hundred years, there has been just one fatal attack. Despite that, a fear of sharks is still a very real thing and from 1916 onward, that fear has evolved and grown into one of the most irrational and over-broadcasted fears in the nation. For example, when a shark is seen swimming in the ocean, the media will often pick up on it and of course put a bit of an urgent spin on it. Just because a shark is seen in shallow water does not mean the water is "shark infested". Movies are still constantly in the works with shark going around killing people left and right. Even video games are putting people up against monstrous sharks. It's all over the place that sharks and people just do not mix and that is far from the truth. We dominate the land, they are supposed to be the ones dominating the seas.The fact that we as a species are so afraid of sharks is confusing to me. On one hand, yes, some species certainly have the ability to do tremendous damage to a human and that should be respected. On the other hand what we do to them should really turn our heads and help us realize how important these animals are.

    In regards to the 1916 shark attacks and my personal feelings about them I can only say this. The 1916 shark attacks were a series of really freak and unfortunate incidents. What species of shark was responsible for the attacks may never be one hundred percent known, but I'm in the ballpark of believing that a bull shark was at least responsible for the Matawan Creek attacks. I think people today are more aware of shark than they were in 1916 and beach patrols, life guards, etc are far more vigilant in getting people out of the water as soon as a fin is spotted. When I read all kinds of articles and blogs about these attacks I find that a major thing is missing that I feel is extremely important and really puts everything into perspective as to how rare of an incident these attacks were.

    To keep everything is perspective. While sharks kill under ten people per year on average, people are still killing over seventy five million sharks every year. That is a massive and I mean massive difference in the who's killing who game. Sharks kill people on accident. People kill sharks maliciously and in some of the most disturbing ways available. One example is finning in which a shark's fins are cut off and the shark is tossed back to sea. That's basically the same as a person have their arms and legs cut off and thrown on a beach. Shark fin soup continues to be a driving factor in why sharks are being hunted down, but sharks are still being killed for various other reasons including trophies, money, and fear. The 1916 shark attacks is a very important event to know about in understanding the relationship between many people and sharks. One of the biggest reasons for this is again that these attacks inspired the movie Jaws which really sent the nation into a shark fear frenzy. Remember that these animals are at the top of the food chain. They vanish, the oceans they live in will change in a big negative way forever.  


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Shark Mania NJ!

Hello everyone and welcome as always. Today's blog is going to be a quick one as I quickly take a look at some events that have been going on over the past few days as there has been quite a few shark related things going on.

First off, a video has surfaced of a 13 year old catching a sand tiger shark from the beach in Long Beach Island. The shark was estimated to be around 7 feet in length and the kid and his father were trying to catch stingrays when the shark grabbed a hold of the bait. I've gotta say that a 13 year old getting a big sand tiger onto the beach is no easy feat so that impressed me personally. Once on the beach the dad and kid took a couple quick photos of the shark then quickly released it back into the water. Sand tiger sharks are a protected species so releasing it was absolutely the correct thing to do. In addition, the father/son duo didn't go all crazy with their catch. There was no passing the shark around and from the looks of it, I'd say the shark never left the ground throughout the brief time it was out of the water.So there's a sand tiger shark literally being caught in the surf. The video of the catch was all over the news yesterday so a quick google search should find it for you. For the privacy of the names of the kid and father and what not, I'm not going to post it here.

Next there's a bit of a mystery as to just what was swimming off the beach in Belmar a few days ago. Beachgoers were shocked to see two fins hanging around in the surf. The controversy lies in just what those fins belonged to. The town Mayor claims that the fins belonged to bullnose rays that were playing in the surf. Meanwhile Erich Ritter, a research associate from the University of West Florida claims the fins could have been from one of many species of shark. To me, the video shows a few young sharks going after something, probably some bunker that has been nearly endless in the area lately. Similar reports of seeing smaller fins circling and splashing was also reported in nearby Spring Lake just days before. Chances are these are young sharks investigating their surroundings, but they're so small I'm not going to guess the species, I'll leave that up to the experts.

Last week a couple fishermen were shocked off the coast of Atlantic City when a great white shark appeared at their boat while they were fishing for other shark species. The great white made a few passes by the boat, occasionally rolling onto it's side to check out the boat and fishermen. It apparently took a small investigative bite on the back of the boat and eventually left.

The point here is just as I said a couple blogs ago. Sharks are in the Ocean and they come to New Jersey every year. The small sharks off Belmar were chasing food around, if the kid on Long Beach Island was going for stingrays, then wouldn't you know it, a shark was around because sharks eat stingrays, and a great white appeared by a boat that was trying to catch other sharks, thus luring the great white to food. It's all about the food chain here and where they prey will go, the predators will follow. That's the way the seas have worked forever, so again, the sharks are not there because you are there, they are there because they have to be to eat and really try and keep the lesser fish populations in check. I'm hopeful more of these amazing animals are seen because they are really signifying a healthier ocean. I can personally attest to that as the last time I was on a boat from Point Pleasant to Belmar, there were literally millions and millions of bunker. Five years ago you'd be lucky if you saw any while cruising around. Where the food is the sharks will follow, but the key is. The bunker is the food, not the humans!

Stay tuned for more shark stuff coming soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jaws Breakdown

Hello everyone and welcome as always! If my last blog on the smooth dogfish wasn't clue enough, I have returned from all the wedding festivities that were going on and am ready to hit the ground running again. The wedding itself was an amazing event and the mini honeymoon we went on was very relaxing and fun as well. So from now until late October I'll be back at this pretty regularly. I mentioned a few blogs back that I would be taking some time to look at different shark movies and basically have some fun with them and provide some educational input as well. The reason I'm doing this is because many people actually do believe what they see in the movies. As you'll see as we progress through this blog and future blogs like this is you can't believe everything you see on the silver screen. Oh and before I begin I guess I should put out the obligatory SPOILER WARNING in case you have not seen the movie.

Jaws was released in 1975 and quickly became one of the most well known movies to ever exist. Directed by Steven Speilberg and based off a novel by Peter Benchley, Jaws is the story of a massive man eating great white shark that terrorized people and on Amity Island. Amity Island is a fictional island that was set somewhere in New England. The inspiration for both the book and movie however were the very real 1916 New Jersey shark attacks which I'll touch on as the blog continues on. The production of this movie was plagued with problems. It went over-budget and took longer to finish than anticipated. In fact, the shark that was used in the movie had a plethora of problems of it's own that caused the shark to appear less in the film than originally anticipated. Instead, Speilberg had John Williams compose the ominous music that plays when the shark is in the area, but not always seen.

The famous opening scene of Jaws shows the shark attacking a girl swimming in the Ocean while her friend passes out drunk on the beach at just the oh so wrong time. The parallel here to the events of 1916 is that Charles Vansant, the first victim in 1916, was killed while swimming alone with a companion (in his case a dog) unable to help from the shore. 

The movie progresses as police chief Martin Brody (Roy Schneider) enlists the aid of shark hunter Quint (Richard Dreyfuss) and oceanographer Matt Hooper (Murray Hamilton) to hunt down the shark that was terrorizing the beachgoers all while trying to keep the peace on the island and give hope to the town that everything is under control. Amity keeps it's beaches open for a time and sure enough more people are killed by the shark, including a child. This sends the town into a shark hunting frenzy. One pair of fishermen come in contact with Jaws who basically rips the dock out from under them. Both fishermen survive the attack. Quint offers his shark hunting services for a massive fee of ten thousand dollars, but Brody originally refuses the offer. One of the boats brings into port a large tiger shark which prompts the mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn to declare the shark problem is over. On the fourth of July the shark attacked again, this time killing a man who was in close vicinity to Chief Brody's son and near the same beach that Vaughn's children were at as well. This causes Vaughn to hire Quint to go after the shark. Both Brody and Hooper accompany Quint on his journey. While trying to bait the shark to the boat, it pops up in a rather comical if you ask me scene. Right after one of the most famous lines in Hollywood is spoken by Brody.... "We're going to need a bigger boat". Quint manages to harpoon three barrels into the shark and Hooper manages to get a tracking device on it as well before it vanished into the depths.

After a night of drinking Quint tells the tale of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, an American ship that was sunk in World War II. After telling the story, the men sing some drunk sailor songs (Show Me the Way to Go Home) until Jaws decides to ram the boat a few times causing the engine compartment to leak. After a quick confrontation, the shark vanishes again with Quint's boat, the Orca largely disabled. After a limited success repair attempt on the Orca, the men manage to get the shark tied to the boat, only for it to drag the boat further out to sea and causing more damage to the boat in the process. Hooper enters a shark cage and decides to face the shark in the water. Jaws makes quick work of the cage, but Hooper manages to hide in a reef. Jaws then goes full whale on the boat and breaches onto it. Quint is grabbed and eaten by the shark that again breaches onto the boat. In an attempt to get the shark to back off, Brody shoves an air tank in it's mouth. With the tank still in it's mouth the shark again goes after Brody, but he manages to shoot the air tank with a gun causing it to explode thus blowing Jaws to pieces. Hooper surfaces and the two celebrate and paddle back to shore.

 For me some of the most memorable scenes from the movie include the following... Another parallel to the 1916 shark attacks is the shark entering into a pond and attacking people, including children. In 1916 Lester Stillwell, Stanley Fisher, and Joseph Dunn were attacked in the Matawan Creek, a freshwater creek located in central New Jersey. Both Stillwell and Fisher lost their lives, but Dunn would be rescued. In the movie, a sailing instructor is killed and eaten by the shark. Interesting to note that in 1916 all bodies from the attacks were recovered contrary to Jaws eating everybody. Even more interesting to me is that Jaws is a Great White whereas many scientists believe that the Bull Shark is responsible for the 1916 attacks. As a big fan of history I also fancy Quint's tale of the Indianapolis. One thing to note in that scene however is that it is believed that Oceanic White Tip Sharks were responsible for scavenging on those who were deceased or near deceased. In Quint's tale, Tiger sharks picked the men off one by one.

So where is the fun in this movie. Well it comes in knowing a little about sharks and knowing that Hollywood doesn't always equal reality. For one, some species of shark are known to breach. as you can see Jaws demonstrating in the picture above. However sharks are only known to do this while hooked and by sharks I'm generally talking about the Shortfin Mako shark which commonly breaches while hooked and sometimes lands in boats on accident. Great Whites will breach in certain part of the world, but they are not at all known to jump on the back of the boat and act like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. 

In addition, sharks are not known to literally go Pacman on a boat and just start eating it's way through the boat. Nor have they proven to be intelligent enough to ram an engine compartment until it floods with water. Perhaps the most outrageous thing in the movie is at one point the shark breaches and literally roars. I'm sorry I can't think of a single shark that roars. I mean sea robins croak and what not, but never have I heard a fish of any kind let out a literal lion-esque roar. Incredible! This literally scared the crap out of people in the 1970's.

At the time that fear was justified. We knew so so so sooooo little about sharks back then that it's no wonder that this movie plunged the world into a shark panic. Now though the impacts of this movie has stretched far and wide and caused the author of the book, Peter Benchley to say "Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today". He also said "Sharks don't target human beings, and they certainly don't hold grudges". Two huge phrases that really opened a lot of eyes to what had happened. No matter how many times Benchley said the book and film are fiction, people still feared sharks in a way they had never done before. After Jaws was released shark hunting skyrocketed. Great Whites became trophies. Some fisherman considered it doing their duty to go out and kill these animals. If you don't believe that simply go on Youtube, the videos are not difficult to find at all. Though Peter Benchley has sadly passed away, his wife Wendy continues to fight for sharks to this very day.

Partially thanks to the movie, Great White populations have plummeted around the world. Shark finning, long line fishing, trophy hunting, and fear have all contributed to this shark's populations to decrease around the world. In just over 30 years following the movie, this species of shark has ended up of the IUCN's Red List as Vulnerable. This shark is now a protected species and in some areas it seems that the populations are increasing which is amazing news. Every day more and more people are becoming aware of the truth about these animals through the efforts of individuals like Wendy Benchley and countless others who want these sharks to have a future.

Jaws is probably the most historically influenced shark movie there is. This is why this blog had a more serious tone. The upcoming shark movie blogs are a bit more outlandish as I looks towards movies such as Deep Blue Sea, Sharknado, and others. Stay tuned for some Hollywood/Sci-Fi fun coming soon!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

New Jersey's Fintastic Visitors Episode II: The Smooth Dogfish

Hello everyone and welcome back to New Jersey's Fintastic Visitors! This will be the second installment of a series of educational blogs that highlight some of the sharks that visit my home state of New Jersey throughout the year! Today's blog will focus on a small species of shark known as the smooth dogfish!

If you have ever taken a boat into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey and tried to fish for anything close to shore, there is a halfway decent chance that you may have caught one of these little guys. Despite their size, the smooth dogfish is just as much a shark as it's larger cousins. The smooth dogfish can grow to be roughly 5 feet in length, but the average is smaller than that. Weight wise this shark can get to be roughly 27 pounds. They make their home along the East Coast of the United States including the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. They can also be found along the Southern coast of Brazil and northern Argentina. Interestingly enough, the individual populations of smooth dogfish seem to keep to themselves despite migrating every year.

For the most part, these sharks are found in shallow waters, normally 60 feet or less. On occasion though they can be found in much deeper waters. On very rare occasions these sharks have been found in mostly fresh water areas, but it is thought that they cannot survive for long in those waters. The smooth dogfish is commonly confused with it's cousin, the spiny dogfish. One of the biggest differences between the two sharks, and easily the easiest way to tell the difference is that the smooth dogfish does not have the dorsal spines that the spiny dogfish has. The gestation period of this shark is roughly 11 months. The mother shark will give birth to between 4 and 20 pups. At birth, the pups are roughly 13 inches in length.

The primary diet of this shark consists of small fish as well as shellfish. The teeth of this shark is by no means adequate for tearing flesh as they are pretty flat and pavement like. This shape makes them perfect for crushing the shells of clams, crabs, etc. As a result of these teeth being the way they are, these sharks pose zero threat to man. The primary predators of these sharks are larger sharks. Hammerheads and Blacktip sharks will frequently choose dogfish as their meal.

While the dogfish is harmless towards people, people can and are having major impacts on this shark. Many fishermen consider this shark as bycatch and a problem fish. Many will simply kill this shark just because it wound up on the hook, stealing their bait. Countless other dogfish are scooped up by commercial fishing vessels and are crushed by the weight of the other fish in the nets or die from the trauma suffered while being caught. Shark finning is also affecting this shark's populations as the fins are used in shark fin soup in Asia. This shark's body is often shipped overseas cheaply as meat for Fish N' Chips as a replacement for other fish.  The current population trend of this shark is currently unknown and probably varies from location to location. The most commercial fishing pressure on these sharks can be found off the northeast coast of the United States. With all the pressures these sharks are facing they are currently listed as NEAR THREATENED on the IUCN's Red List.

If you are ever out on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean and you happen to catch one of these guys or gals, take a good look at them. Keep in mind this animal is just as much a shark as any other species of shark in the Ocean. They have a job to do and they do it well. Just because this shark may have stolen your bait is not an excuse to kill it. Respect the shark and know that life can be tough for this smaller species that is dealing with a lot of pressure both inside and outside of the seas.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Double Shark Sunday

Hello everyone and welcome once again. Today I will be covering two quick topics, both of which are shark related. First I'll be taking a quick look at this year's Shark Week that has come to an end. Then I will take a look at some historical events.

So I have a confession to start off this blog. I had nooooooo idea that Shark Week was actually starting on June 26th. I don't know if it's because I haven't been watching much in the way of television as of late or what, but I basically accidentally stumbled upon it. I just happened to see last year's Monster Mako was on so I tuned in and saw a countdown to the start of Shark Week. So my thoughts on this year's installment of Shark Week from what I've seen is as follows. Overall I thought this was the quietest Shark Week I've seen in years. My social media accounts weren't blowing up with it as in years past, I didn't hear people at work talking about it, and I didn't even hear much about it from local aquariums. The programming itself from what I saw, was not all that terrible. Of course you had the stupid shows focusing in on sharks hunting people and how dangerous and deadly they are. At the same time though there were actually some scientific shows that I personally found quite interesting. Sharks versus Dolphins I found to be a really good show aside from a comment about tiger sharks being man eaters. It showed quite a few different scenarios in which various species of sharks and dolphins deal with each other. It was a pretty good show and if you have any interest in sharks or dolphins, it's certainly worth checking out. The shark fin cams were pretty cool to see on different shows and really gives the audience a look at what a shark sees during the course of a day. So my overall reaction to Shark Week this year as it wraps up is better than it's been. I don't feel the need to rip different shows apart as I have in the past as many of these shows focused more on the sharks and different research as opposed to sharks doing nothing but finding ways to hunt down humans. Shark Week concludes tonight and I hope it does respectfully so. My only major gripe this year was the constant promoting of the movie "The Shallows". This movie from all previews appears to be another shark attack Jaws esque movie. At one point during a promo someone says they made the movie while respecting the shark. Seeing a massive shark breach and grab a human then stalk another for the rest of the movie is not a sign of respect. Instead it's something that just further pushes the stereotype people have for most sharks. Vicious man eaters that is...

In other, more local news to me... Two days ago was the official 100th anniversary of the start of what is commonly known as the twelve days of terror. For those of you who don't know, the twelve days of terror took place from July 1st through 12th which saw four people killed and once person badly injured by a shark. Nobody knows as to whether or not there was one or multiple sharks were responsible for the attacks. Nobody even knows for sure which species of shark was responsible. Most people believe either the great white or the bull shark was responsible for these attacks. These attacks would change the country's view on sharks forever. It is these shark attacks that the movie Jaws was modeled after. Yes it is ironic that the shark in Jaws is a great white when a great white may not have even been responsible. While the 100th anniversary is certainly something to remember and those who lost their lives should absolutely be remembered I bring this anniversary up for a different reason.

Of course the shark attacks of 1916 made the front page of several local papers over the past few days, but something else has been floating moreso around social media. That is scientists claiming this year could see a repeat of the 1916 attacks due to the amount of sharks seen close to shore in recent years. Well..... So far this year an unidentified species of shark was spotted following a pod of dolphins off of Deal New Jersey which caused the lifeguards to pull all swimmers out of the water for several hours. Today I just watched a clip of a news broadcast showing a great white that was seen roughly three miles off the coast. Of course those two reports coupled with "scientists" claiming that there is a good chance for a series of attacks this year and the 100th anniversary of the 1916 attacks has gotten a lot of people on edge. All I can say about it all is that the sighting of two sharks means nothing. Sharks are seen every year. Some are close to shore, some aren't. Last year it was a hammerhead in close to shore. Before that it was a blue shark. The list goes on and on. Point is nobody was "attacked". The scientist claims? I have zero clue what science they are using to put that statistic together. Again. There are sharks here every year. Each year goes by without problem so I'm not sure why the alarms are going off that we're in for a repeat of 1916. Lastly all the reminders of 1916 fail to be more about the lives of the victims rather than the fact that they were attacked. Many people right now are going around saying "In 1916 sharks attacked 5 people in New Jersey!" yet so many don't know who or any of the circumstances surrounding the attacks. In closing, I do not think there is any kind of elevated threat of a shark attack in New Jersey. The tiny threat remains a tiny threat as there is no real credible reason to believe that there is going to be an outbreak of attacks.

Thank you all for reading and have a safe and happy 4th of July for those of you in the USA. My next blog won't be until after the wedding on July 16th, so look for something new to pop up sometime after that!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

New Jersey Summer 2016 Shark Blog

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.... Welcome to the annual summer blog where I take a little trip into the sharks that come to New Jersey and what it potentially means for the summer beachgoers that come from all over the country, nah, all over the world. In the past I went into a lot of detail on the sharks that visit New Jersey, but since I'll be continuing the New Jersey Fintastic Visitor series of blogs,  I'm going to try and post a few more pictures and less detail about these sharks since they'll all be touched on in detail later. So lets get right into this thing!

Every summer, the beaches of New Jersey are literally swamped with people. Some days in some locations, you couldn't find a spot on the sand to sit on if you tried your hardest. Yes, the beach is an incredibly popular place to be during the summer and so is the ocean. What many beachgoers are completely unaware of is that New Jersey is a sort of hot-spot for sharks. Now before hysteria happens.... Despite many species of sharks visiting New Jersey, attacks are incredibly rare. In fact the last fatal shark attack in New Jersey was back in 1926. Some of the shark species that visit New Jersey are shocking to say the least. Some are small, some are large, but the bottom line is this. Each and every one of the species deserves our highest respect as they are the kings and queens of the oceans and we are in their domain whenever we step foot into the ocean.

Some key things to remember is that sharks are not the monsters that the media portray them to be. These animals have been known to peacefully swim alongside humans more often than not. Divers are in constant contact with these animals and it's only once in a blue moon that you hear about a shark biting a human. Another thing to remember is the simple anatomy of the shark. Sharks don't have a sense of touch like we do. They can't reach out with their fins and get a feel for strange objects. Instead, their sense of touch is literally in their mouth. This is why you hear occasional stories of a shark seemingly chewing on a dock or a corner of a boat. They're trying to figure out what the object is, not trying to eat the object. I'm not going to go into the full details about what sharks do when their really trying to eat here. Another key thing to remember is when these animals are the most active. There is a general rule of thumb that these animals tend to be more active in the evening and in the morning. Another key to remember is that many large species of shark tend to pick off stragglers of groups. Expanding more on that key point. Many large species of shark, including ones I'll be looking at soon, are known to go after seals. The thing to remember is that surfers look like seals. Think about it. Seals have a long body similar to a surfboard. They have to front flippers similar to arms hanging off a surfboard and likewise the feet. The final key point is what has led to many shark attacks around the world. It's known as a case of missing identity. The shark bites a person and is then gone. Very, very rarely does a shark return for another bite. So with all of that being said....

Sharks are all over the world. It doesn't matter what beach you swim off of, sharks are there. That being said, there is no need to fear these animals. Respect them at all times. Respect that you are in their world. Understand that they are not like us and that many shark "attacks" are either cases of mistaken identity or a curious shark is simply trying to figure out just what a strange being in their water is. Respect when they are the most active and your swimming will be a real blast here in New Jersey. Even if you swim in the evening or the morning, your chances of being bitten by are shark are astronomically small to almost non existent. They just tend to be more active at these times. So lets look at some of our visitors!

Starting off pretty famous here. The great white shark is a visitor to New Jersey every year. In fact there is a large tagged female great white that migrates right up the cost every year. The shark's name is Mary Lee and she at this point is the bringer of summer and winter as she migrates past the state in the spring and fall. Other great whites also come by the shore quietly every year as well. Historically speaking, the great white is blamed officially for zero attacks in New Jersey. There is a lot of controversy as to whether or not the great white was the shark involved in the famous 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey. The major controversy lies in that the shark was never actually seen and a couple of the attacks took place in brackish water, an area that great whites typically don't venture into. Either way, great whites can be very aggressive but they are not not known to eat people. Nearly every time a great white has bitten someone, it has vanished instantly. Point in case, these animals are not man eaters, but just another visitor to the Jersey shore. They're rare, but they do come around every year. 

On the other end of the spectrum is the little smooth dogfish. This shark is a fisherman's nightmare. Countless fishermen catch these little guys while trying to catch a variety of bony fish. This shark is basically harmless. Besides the fact that they are small, they have very tiny teeth that are more like pebbles than actual teeth. There is nothing to fear from these little guys as they swim around picking off shellfish and crustaceans. They have been known to cause some panic from many uneducated beachgoers that somehow mistaken them for baby great whites and other large species of shark. 

The sand tiger shark is the most commonly seen species of large shark and is easily one of the more ferocious looking. One of the more popular aquarium sharks, the sand tiger is also known as the ragged tooth shark and the grey nurse shark. These sharks are usually slow swimming and frequently tolerate divers swimming right along side them. When startled, these sharks can produce an incredible, short lived, burst of speed. In fact they can whip their tales so hard that a void in the water is created and the collapse of that void sounds like thunder. Most impressive! The sand tiger is best known for it's crazy array of teeth that are visible at all times. The well known law when swimming with this shark is to respect it at all times and it will be very tolerant. As with any animal, harass it and it may not be so tolerant. The sand tiger shark cannot legally be targeted by fisherman due to it's conservation status. These sharks are most commonly found around structures such as ship wrecks and are much more active at night than during the day.

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If you're looking for a really crazy looking shark in New Jersey, look no further. Believe it or not, New Jersey is visited by scalloped hammerheads when the waters warm up. These sharks are extremely sensitive to it's surroundings and tend to shy away from humans. Over the past couple years, scalloped hammerheads have been seen very close to shore looking for small fish, rays, and crustaceans to eat. Despite their size and aggression towards their prey, these animals have never bitten a person in New Jersey's waters. Personally the hammerhead is one of my favorite sharks and I find it to be quite the fascinating animal. If you have the time and want to see something truly amazing, head on over to youtube and look up some videos of these sharks hunting or even just swimming. Some real awesome stuff there! Seeing these sharks in New Jersey's waters is a real treat as it is an Endangered Species in desperate need of protection.

Boaters beware!!!! New Jersey sits at the northern tip of the whale shark's range. The largest fish in the world will on rare instances visit the waters off of New Jersey. They are by no means frequent visitors, but none the less... The fish with the four foot wide mouth can at any time show up and swallow a person in one gulp... One problem. The throat of a whale shark is roughly the size of a quarter so no worries, this shark can't eat you. Top it off with this... The whale shark has never once bitten a human or even harmed a human. In fact the most whale sharks have done to humans involve stealing fish out of a net and pushing a boat. If you are on a boat this summer and see a spotted fin sticking out of the water. Consider yourself incredibly lucky, you could have just stumbled upon a whale shark!

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The sandbar shark is another larger species of shark that inhabits the waters of New Jersey. This shark can be found in varying depths of water and have been known to come very close to shore. These fast moving sharks are very skittish and despite their size, tend to only go after small to medium sized fish. These sharks, along with the dogfish, are often mislabeled as sand sharks (fun fact: sand sharks don't exist). This species of shark is another one that has been known to cause a bit of panic among beachgoers as they have a very large dorsal fin that can be mistaken for a great white if you are unfamiliar with sharks. As is the case with the other large sharks I've mentioned, there is no recorded attack by a sandbar shark in the state of New Jersey. That being said, I don't have any information about whether or not these sharks have bitten any fishermen who've caught these sharks. In that case though I certainly don't blame the shark and I hope no-one would.

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The highly migratory blue shark will swim by the Jersey shore during the summer months. Sometimes these sharks make their way into shallow waters as one was seen basically surfing through the waves a few years ago. These sharks can be aggressive, but as is the case with the other larger sharks, the blue shark has never bitten anyone in the waters of New Jersey. These sharks are really quite fascinating as they will cross the ocean many times throughout the course of their lives. In addition, unlike most sharks, the blue shark is known to swim in schools. Strength in numbers!

Another offshore shark that will from time to time venture inshore is the porbeagle. It looks like a great white, but it's not. It's only on rare instances that these sharks have been seen close to shore. Much like the great white, this shark is partially warm blooded, so they can venture into cooler waters where some other species of shark cant. Also, much like the great white, this shark has seen it's population decrease due to intense fishing. The porbeagle is currently a protected species and one of New Jersey's lesser known visitors. Common theme: There is no record of a porbeagle biting a person in New Jersey.

The thresher shark is another offshore species of shark that visits New Jersey. This shark will stun it's prey by smacking it with it's oversized tail making it an easy meal. Legend tells of fishermen who were beheaded by the tail in intense battles with these sharks. Of course that is just legend and there is no actual account of a person being beheaded by a thresher shark. In fact, thresher sharks are not known to be aggressive towards humans at all, unless of course they are on the end of a fishing hook. No, the thresher would much rather smack some small fish around to snack on. Seeing on of these sharks close to shore would be rare as they tend to inhabit deeper, cooler waters.

Speaking of offshore... The shortfin mako shark will also visit New Jersey during the summer months. Much like the thresher and porbeagle, to see one of these sharks close to shore would be surprising to say the least as they enjoy the cooler, deeper waters off the coast. Shortfin makos are an incredibly powerful species of shark that is capable of launching itself 30 feet out of the water. They can also swim at speeds nearing 60 miles per hour. The shark is specially designed for both speed and power. The ambush ability these sharks have is simply amazing. Since they rarely come in contact with humans these sharks tend to be forgotten by folks swimming in the shallows. Still, they are another large visitor to New Jersey. Much as is the case with other sharks listed. There are no recorded attacks on swimmers, but they tend to become very aggressive towards fishermen who have them hooked. Sometimes they have been known to launch themselves onto a boat, injuring the fishermen in the process. Due to overfishing the population of the short fin mako is in decline with less and less large makos seen each year.

The bull shark is another controversial shark that will inhabit the waters of New Jersey. Unlike many of the other large species of shark, the bull shark will come very close to shore and can be very aggressive. This species along with the great white are the two sharks that have been mostly commonly looked at as the sharks responsible for the 1916 New Jersey shark attacks. Many people believe that a bull shark may have been responsible for the attacks as they are known to move into fresh water and brackish water areas. In fact the bull shark has been spotted as far inland as Saint Lois in the Mississippi River. In New Jersey, these sharks are not commonly seen and there has been no confirmed attacks by a bull shark in New Jersey's waters. As is the case with many of the other sharks in New Jersey, this species of shark is currently seeing a population decline.

The list seems endless doesn't it? The next shark is the tiger shark. This is another large species of shark that can be quite aggressive. Many people refer to these sharks as living trash cans as all kinds of random stuff (licence plates for example) have been seen inside these animals. The tiger shark is known to be aggressive, but as is the case with nearly all sharks off New Jersey, there is no confirmed attack by a tiger shark.

I'm going to stop the list there. I will say that more species than the ones I listed visit New Jersey during the summer months. The main point to look at is this. Out of all these sharks, including many well known species, only 2 of them have ever been suspected of biting a human unprovoked. That number folks dates back to the 1500s. It is very, very safe to swim in the ocean off of New Jersey (outside of rip currents, etc). If you come to the beaches here, do not fear the ocean because of the sharks. These animals are at the top of their food chain. They hunt anything from crabs to seals to even dolphins. Humans are simply not on the menu. Mistakes happen. Look how many mistakes we make on a day to day basis. It happens. It happens for sharks too. Cases of mistaken identity are mistakes. Nothing more. Yes, the mistake can cause a lot of damage, but that is the end result of a large animal biting a small animal. In the end, these animals are really just as every bit curious of us as we are of them. We are in their world in the oceans. 

I've spent a good amount of time talking to fishermen and divers living along the shore and the story is the same. Respect them and they'll respect you. Divers have seen tiger sharks, as well as nurse sharks hanging near an inlet. Fishermen have seen makos breach 20 plus feet in the air and land safely back in the water. Boaters have seen a great white slowly swim up to bump a boat and go about their business. Swimmers have seen hammerheads, blue sharks, and sandbar sharks tearing through the surf without incident. Point in case. None of these animals cared in the least bit that a person was in the water with them. I can't say it enough. Show the shark respect and he or she will in all likelyhood show it back. So get out there and enjoy the ocean. Don't worry about sharks, but if you happen to see one consider yourself lucky. They are always in the ocean, but rarely seen.

If you were hoping to see more information on these species of sharks, stay tuned as later this summer I'll be highlighting many in their own blog as part of the New Jersey Fintastic Visitors blog series. I'm hoping to get one more blog out, possibly about Shark Week, before the wedding! If by some chance I can't get to it until after, then I hope all of you have a great time until return in late July :)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Long Overdue Update

Hey everyone. I really have to offer an apology to everyone here. It's been 4 months since my last post and I had said that I had a lot of stuff in the works for this blog. Well the truth of the matter is that that is all true. I have a ton of stuff that I want to do on this blog. I have two separate blogs that I'm in the process of trying to put together, I have videos that I want to share, I have pictures, and news I want to share, but there has been one consistent problem over the last few months.... Time... As I've mentioned in a previous blog, I will be getting married in July. So wedding planning and other wedding related things have taken up just a ton of my free time.

The rest of my time I've been spending trying to see friends, care for my newly rescued hedgehog, and get my other blog (a video game blog) off the ground. All of those things have been going quite well and the idea for me is to be able to find a balance between the two blogs. While the ocean and the life in it is certainly a passion of mine, so is gaming, and so is typing. It's been kind of nice to type about less stressful things than dolphin slaughters, and the threat of mass extinction, and it's something I want to continue to do. At the same time though I know for a fact that I want to continue the fight that I have been engaged in for years here. I want to continue to spread awareness for sharks in particular as well as other major issues taking place in the world today.

I know this blog has been a bit controversial at times. I've gotten emails and comments from people bashing me for certain blogs I've posted. Looking back at many of the blogs here, I don't regret typing any of them. I don't regret being a part of any operation that I was a part of, any side operations I worked with, or anything like that. While I no longer 100% believe a couple of them (and I've noted that at the end of those blogs), I feel that I can't delete them because they all serve as where this blog has gone and where it is going now. So where is this blog going?

After doing a lot of thinking and debating, I do have a plan for the future here. Between now and late July, I don't expect to post much at all. I'm certainly going to try to squeeze in a Shark Week blog and the annual New Jersey Shark blog because tis the season out here. From late July though I think I'm going to try and refocus the blog a bit. This blog started off as a shark conservation blog and that is something I want to focus on more again. Many of the more recent blogs I've done have focused on whales and dolphins, which there is nothing wrong with, but my main concern has always been sharks. I'm thinking that upon returning to this blog I'll be shifting the focus to be more about sharks and mantas. I will not abandon the fight for the whales and dolphins and I will still post about them, but the sharks and mantas will become the number 1 and 2 species covered here. I'm also going to be looking into bringing some more educational blogs around and also looking at sharks in movies/media (as I watch a lengthy promo for the movie The Shallows on Discovery as a part of Shark Week) as kind of a fun Hollywood bashing fest.

Well that was a lot to say and I'm glad I was able to get on here and update you all on what's going on. So for now stay tuned for a Shark Week and NJ Shark blog coming soon and this blog getting back underway after my wedding. Talk to you all soon!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Japanese Antarctic Whaling Season Over

Hello everyone. The ICR (Institution for Cetacean Research) has announced that the Japanese whaling fleet has returned to port. This season, the whalers hunted and killed 333 minke whales since December. What this amounts to is that many of the 333 whales were illegally slaughtered in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and Australian Whale Sanctuary. I can tell you this thanks to the ICR announcing the coordinates where each whale was killed. Sadly of those killed, 200 are being reported as pregnant females. For those of you who may not follow this blog regularly, or this is your first time here....

Back in 2014, the International Court of Justice declared that Japan's lethal scientific whale research program was not scientific, but rather commercial whaling. There is a moratorium currently in effect on commercial whaling, a moratorium in which Japan was found to be violating year after year. The moratorium has a loophole in that nations are able to kill whales for scientific research and sell the meat of the whale rather than waste it. Japan took advantage of that for years, claiming that it was too difficult to do non-lethal research. In order to resume whaling, Japan would need to develop a new program that would actually have scientific merit. Last year, Japan sent a few whaling ships down to the Southern Ocean and performed non lethal research. In late 2015, Japan announced that it would once again be whaling in the Southern Ocean under a new program that was also shot down by the IWC. So by whaling this year, Japan broke international law as they currently have a court ruling against them and at the same time, once again broke the moratorium on commercial whaling.

While the number of whales killed this year is significantly smaller than the quotas that have been set up in the past, illegal is illegal. It's great that Japan has scaled back the number of whales it's hunting, but that is not enough because their program has no scientific merit and is classified as commercial, which remains illegal. In years past the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society locked horns with the whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, but due to several of their vessels undergoing repairs, the lateness in which Japan announced it would be whaling, and the massive increase in the whaling fleet's target areas, Sea Shepherd was unable to pursue the whalers this year. Despite that Sea Shepherd is battling the ICR in courts around the world and claim to have a high speed ship that would be able to track down the whaling fleet set to set sail next season.

So how long will Japan spit in the face of the world in regards to whaling? Well probably until somebody actually does something about it. Probably until Australia or New Zealand actually escort the whaling fleet out of the whale sanctuaries. Another scenario that could bring an end to the large scale whale hunts would be the lone factory ship needing to be replaced. As an older vessel, the Nisshin Maru's life can only be so long and replacing it would be a huge cost that the Japanese Government may see as a waste as the popularity of whale meat continues to drop.

The bottom line here is that Japan has once again defied international law and until they are not allowed to do so they will do it year after year.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Taiji Ends It Brutal Slaughter for the Year

Greetings once again everyone. So I'm not going to lie, I kind of missed the boat a bit on this one due to life events, but the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter came to an end at the start of this month. While hunting permits remain in effect until the end of March, it seems like Taiji has called it quits for the season. So with that being said, the following, according to Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project are the statistics for the 2015-2016 drive hunt...

Killed: 652

Striped Dolphins: 290
Risso's Dolphins: 245
Bottlenose Dolphins: 66
Pilot Whales: 51

Released: 121

Bottlenose Dolphins: 80
Pilot Whales: 22
Risso's Dolphins: 19

The next numbers are the number of dolphins that were captured for aquariums and marine parks. Keep in mind as always. The main reason this slaughter continues is because marine parks continue to purchase dolphins from Taiji. One live dolphin sold into captivity can go for well over $500,000 dollars. If that doesn't spell profit, I don't know what does. More on that in a minute. First though, the numbers...

Captivity: 111

Bottlenose Dolphins: 98
Risso's Dolphins: 8
Pacific White Sided Dolphins: 4
Pilot Whales: 1

As you can see the vast majority of the dolphins brought into captivity are these guys, the famous bottlenose dolphin.

Strangely enough, the bottlenose dolphin is also the most popular species of dolphin in marine parks. So until September 1st, the killing has stopped. The dolphins of Japan can feel a bit safer swimming by until then. 

Some things to remember about this slaughter is just how barbaric it is. The best way to do that is by seeing it, so I warn you that the following images are going to be quite graphic. Before that though I can't help but wonder what the future of this slaughter is going to be. The number of dolphins that are released every year seems to be on the rise as the kill numbers drop. On top of that I need to wonder what if anything Sea World will do. They've come out and pledged to help put an end to commercial whaling and dolphins are in fact small cetaceans. So we will see what comes of that. Thanks for reading this quick little blog! I apologize for not posting this sooner! From now until September, there will probably not be too much in the way of dolphin related blogs unless of course something were to happen that is noteworthy. Stay tuned though as I have started working on a blog that will introduce a new topic to this blog, Iceland's Whaling Program. For now though, I leave you now with a very real reminder of the horror that is the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reaction to Sea World Ending Orca Breeding Program

Hello everyone. By now chances are the you've heard the big announcement that the marine park, Sea World has officially ended it's captive Orca breeding program. For those of you who are unaware... Sea World has been under massive pressure from animal activists and many members of the general population to end the captive breeding of orcas. Before I reveal my thoughts on this matter as I tend to stay away from this sort of thing normally, let's take a look back.

Back in 2013, a film was released entitled "Blackfish". The film focused on the story of Tilikum, an orca currently residing in Sea World Orlando. The film focused on the risks of keeping these animals in captivity as Tilikum has been called responsible for the deaths of 3 people (depending on who you ask of course). The film in general however is one sided against Sea World and captivity in general. I'm not going to go into it much more than that here. If you really want to know my whole reaction to the film, check out this blog I did a couple years back. To check that out Click here!

Pressure mounted on Sea World over what has become known as the Blackfish Effect. Stocks crashed, attendance sank, and it seemed like Sea World's world was crashing down around them. Suddenly though Sea World started to change it's tune. They first announced new enclosures for the orcas that would be much larger and more natural feeling and looking. The first of those is set to be ready for 2017 in San Diego with the other Sea World parks to follow suite. Despite this announcement things continued to be rough for Sea World as the orca shows continued to be a target of much displeasure. So Sea World again changed it's attitude and agreed to put an end to it's traditional orca entertainment show. They will be replacing the old show with a new show that will focus more on education and these animals in the wild versus entertainment. Then Sea World shook up the entire zoo/aquarium/marine park world when the announced just days ago that they will be ending their orca breeding program making the orcas currently housed at Sea World the last generation of orcas to be housed at Sea World.

This announcement has gotten all kinds of responses. Some people applaud Sea World's choice. Some see it as giving into a small group of people. Some see it as the start of the end of the entire zoo/aquarium world. Me? I see it is a very interesting situation. I stand by what I said years ago that I do not think orcas, or any other large cetaceans for that matter belong in captivity. I feel like they are simply too big and way too smart and even way too social to be kept in a tank. At the same time though, I see where Sea World comes from. Take a moment to think of the history of the orca. Many years ago these animals we knew nothing about. People literally feared these beings. They got the name "killer" whale after all. Then Sea World starts a show of entertainment. Suddenly these animals become beloved. Suddenly people cared about the orca. Suddenly people were no longer afraid. Things would largely go Sea World's way until Blackfish came out. After a few years of fighting the company decided, for one reason or another Sea World has decided to call it quits with the orca. I see it as that the orca has fulfilled it's purpose in captivity. With the sheer fame and attraction to these animals, I think it is safe to say that future generations will not be fearing these animals and will hold them in the same regard as they do now.

Personally I don't see it as Sea World slapping the zoo/aquarium world in the face like some do. I see this as a step towards actually caring about the animals in the wild more than just having them for entertainment. Yes, Sea World gave money to research and orca conservation, but guess what they will continue to do so and probably spend more money than ever before on it. In fact, Sea World claims that it will put 50 million dollars towards marine animal rescue, conservation. Personally for me the most important fight Sea World claims it is going to step up in is the fight to end all commercial whaling, commercial seal killing, as well as shark finning worldwide. I don't know about you, but to me all that stuff does not sound like a facility turning it's back on the zoo/aquarium world. To me it sounds like Sea World is in a transition from entertainment to education which is really what all of these facilities should be about. Whether or not these claims become true, time will tell, but for now it certainly sounds like a big step in the right direction.

The end of the orca breeding program no doubt ushers in a new era for Sea World. Sure, extreme animal activists will probably jump on Sea World for another thing (dolphin breeding) and that will be another battle for Sea World to fight. Some people that stood by Sea World have turned their backs to them for abandoning the shows and breeding program, but those are the people who are in it to be entertained and not in it to try and fully understand these animals that we as a species still cannot grasp. Many people who were against Sea World's shows and programs have applauded them for this choice.

As I said before... I do not believe there is a need for orcas to be in captivity. Regardless as to  what side of the fence you may have been on before this announcement. Whether it was pro Blackfish or pro Sea World, one thing everybody should agree on. That is that the survival of the species in the wild is what matters. It does not matter that a day will come where we can't see them doing flips for our amusement. All that matters is that Sea World starts a real serious educational program while the animals are still there and continues that program long after the last orca at Sea World is gone. I've said it before in several blogs, if Sea World were to ever take a stand against places like Taiji, the world would change. Sea World took a stand for whatever reason, be it financial or otherwise, to see an end to what is their biggest entertainment attraction. Times could be changing, but only time will tell that. For now though I thank Sea World for their choice and truly hope that the 50 million plus really does go partly towards seeing an end to the commercial slaughters plaguing our oceans.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Horror in Taiji Continues in 2016

Greetings everyone and welcome back. Tonight I will be revisiting a horrific issue that I have covered many times in the past. Yes, I am referring to the Taiji Dolphin Slaughter. For those of you who may be unaware of what I am talking about, I will quickly explain. The town of Taiji, Japan is home to a disgusting drive hunt in which various species of small cetaceans are driven from the ocean into a cove and either brutally slaughtered or sold into captivity. The methods the Japanese use are considered "traditional" and make use of advanced technologies that the traditional dolphin hunts would never have had... So... True tradition? Not so much. How the dolphins are killed is also far from humane and I will include a video of the "hunt" at the end of this blog. While this blog normally remains neutral and out of the whole captivity debate, this is one topic I will never be silent on. The fact is that the amount of money that the Taiji fishermen make from selling a dolphin into captivity is far and above the money that they make for selling them for meat. Any dolphin that is unfit for captivity is normally slaughtered, or if very small, may be forced back out to sea.

The dolphin hunting season began in Taiji on September 1st, 2015. The following are some stats as if January 17th, 2016 from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Cove Guardians who are on the ground in Taiji documenting the slaughter. At this point there have been 439 of the allotted 1,873 dolphins killed in the cove of Taiji. Of those killed include 198 Risso's dolphins, 144 striped dolphins, 51 pilot whales, and 46 bottlenose dolphins. The early part of the season was slow. Kill counts were actually very low in September and October, but November and so far January have seen many more dolphins slaughtered.

If you would like to get a rough idea of the value of the meat of all these dolphins consider this. One dead dolphin can fetch at most $500. After paying the fishermen's salaries and the labor to prepare the dolphins for sale you figure the final profit is very low.... That being said...

So far 91 dolphins have been sold into captivity. Of those 91 dolphins 84 of them are bottlenose dolphins, 6 Risso's dolphins, and 1 pilot whale. The dolphins that are the most fit in a pod are usually taken into captivity (depending on the species. Bottlenose dolphins are the main captivity target). 102 dolphins have been forced back out to sea with the majority of them being presumably young bottlenose dolphins.

Keep in mind the small amount of money the industry makes from a dead dolphin and consider this. One live bottlenose dolphin can sell for over $100,000 dollars. Fishermen salaries included, this number is ridiculously high compared to what the industry makes off of a dead dolphin. That being said, it's pretty obvious where the money comes from and what really drives this slaughter. It's not the meat, it's not the need for food for the survival of the Japanese people, It's literally the captivity industry that is keeping the Taiji dolphin slaughter alive and profitable. If the buying of dolphins from Taiji stopped, the killing would probably come to a quick end or the hunting season would be cut dramatically.

Now I am not going to stand on a soap box sort to speak here and start telling you not to go to aquariums or zoos or anything like that because as I have said many times before. My concern in this blog is the survival of the wild populations of these and the other animals I blog about. However I will ask you to be smart and to do your research before visiting a facility that houses dolphins or other cetaceans. Find out where they are from and if they are from somewhere that is home to a drive hunt like Taiji, find somewhere else to go. That's all I will say about that.

I've called out Sea World, Georgia Aquarium, and other large facilities in the United States before to stand up for the animals they say they care so much about to help put an end to this slaughter and I am doing it again here. These facilities should take a stand and really push for Japan to put an end to this slaughter and help the town of Taiji find an alternative to slaughtering and bringing dolphins into captivity. Helping to establish dolphin tourism would probably be huge for a town that, from what photos and video show, has a great love for dolphins. (Keep in mind most people living in Taiji are probably still not aware of the killing going on in their backyard as the cove is closed to the public and basically hidden during the hunting season)

The Taiji dolphin slaughter continues to take the lives of countless dolphins and the idea that a facility is saving a dolphin from being killed and that's why they are buying it is just insane because if they weren't buying then the industry wouldn't survive and the killing would drop.

What can you do? 1.) Educate yourself of the Taiji dolphin slaughter. I've personally done many a blog on this issue and have a ton of fact in those blogs. You can also check out Sea Shepherd's Cove Guardians and Ric O'Barry's Dolphin Project. Both groups have been on the ground in Taiji and have tons of photos, videos, and information. 2.) Watch "The Cove" 3.) Tell your friends about the situation and spread the word. 4.) In my opinion one of the strongest ways to get the message across... Share the following video far and wide. No words are needed other than where this is happening and why.