Tuesday, March 10, 2015

100 Million Sharks Are Killed Every Year, Scientists Estimate In Report

The Huffington Post | By Dominique Mosbergen

Thanks in part to the horrible deaths played out in classic shark attack movies like "Jaws" and "Deep Blue Sea," the shark has been pegged as a notoriously bloodthirsty enemy to humans.

But according to a new clip by EyeOpener TV, the shark's nasty reputation may be largely ill-deserved and may actually be more fitting for humans, instead.

The year 2011 saw a reported 12 shark deaths worldwide, the most since 1993, according to National Geographic.

By contrast, a new report estimates that humans kill 100 million sharks every year. The scientists behind the report, published in the journal Marine Policy, added that the number of sharks killed could be anywhere between 63 million and 273 million, staggering figures that experts say could drive many shark species to endangerment or even extinction.

A report released in 2009 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that more than 30 percent of the 64 species of sharks and rays assessed by the group were found to be threatened or near-threatened with extinction. The cause? Overfishing.

Great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead and smooth hammerhead sharks, as well as great whites, were all considered either endangered or vulnerable animals, according to IUCN experts.

“Despite mounting threats, sharks remain virtually unprotected on the high seas,” said Sonja Fordham, deputy chair of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and policy director for the Shark Alliance, according to a 2009 statement released by the organization.

“The vulnerability and lengthy migrations of most open ocean sharks mean they need coordinated, international conservation plans. Our report documents serious overfishing of these species, in national and international waters, and demonstrates a clear need for immediate action on a global scale.”



As the website for Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation initiative points out, many sharks are killed for shark fin soup, a delicacy still consumed in many Asian countries. Often, to get the sought-after part of the shark, the fin of the animal is sliced off and the shark is left to die at sea.

"In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over long lifetimes, leaving them exceptionally vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from depletion," reads a statement on the initiative's website. "As key predators, their depletion also has risks for the health of entire ocean ecosystems."

To learn more about sharks and how to help them, go to the website for Pew Charitable Trusts' global shark conservation initiative here, or the Shark Conservation Society here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Great white shark secrets revealed by tracking 'Lydia'
The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 06, 2015 9:02 AM ET
Lydia the Great White shark is shown on a research vessel off the coast off Jacksonville, Fla. in a March 2013 photo. It's been two years since Lydia was tagged off Florida and has been tracked to Newfoundland waters and across the North Atlantic.
Lydia the Great White shark is shown on a research vessel off the coast off Jacksonville, Fla. in a March 2013 photo. It's been two years since Lydia was tagged off Florida and has been tracked to Newfoundland waters and across the North Atlantic. (Robert Snow/Ocearch Jacksonville Expedition/Canadian Press)
 Lydia has her own Twitter account and a dorsal fin tracker that over the last two years has given scientists and the public first ever details about great white sharks.

Since she was tagged with a locator device off Jacksonville, Fla., on March 3, 2013, Lydia has travelled more than 56,000 kilometres over the mid-Atlantic ridge toward Europe and western Africa then back again.

She appears to be navigating an uncannily accurate pattern that had her making a beeline for the Florida coast almost exactly two years to the day she was tagged. In both years she swam from the southeastern United States up to the waters off Newfoundland before heading out into the open North Atlantic.

Almost 3,000 Twitter fans are following the five-metre, 1,400-kilogram shark believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s. They can trace Lydia's exploits each time her fin breaks water, pinging new data by satellite to computer trackers.

Emerging is a long term view of one of the ocean's top predators that is revamping what researchers thought they knew.

Habitat spans ocean


"What we previously considered to be a much smaller habitat scope, thanks to Lydia, is much larger," Gregory Skomal, a senior scientist at the Massachusetts division of Marine Fisheries, said from Bedford, Mass.

"We're talking about habitat that spans the entire North Atlantic ocean. That's amazing, and we're getting that from Lydia."

It's hoped that the battery on her fin device will hold out for another three years, allowing researchers to fill in gaps, such as where she might give birth.

Understanding Lydia's habitat will help craft conservation plans to protect great whites as a vital part of ocean ecosystems, Skomal said.

"Is she going to reveal for us nursery areas for white sharks?" he wonders. "We're hoping that as the patterns emerge from sharks like Lydia, we're able to tease out some of these aspects of the natural history of the animal that we just don't know."

Shark graphic
Lydia has her own Twitter account and a dorsal fin tracker that over the last two years has given scientists and the public first ever details about great white sharks. (Canadian Press)

It's a marvel of technological progress in the last decade that such a far roaming creature can be traced so closely for so long, he said.

Chris Fischer, chairman and expedition leader for the non-profit group Ocearch, said Lydia was tagged thanks to a specialized lift that raised her from the water and on to a vessel deck after she was hooked using bait.

Hoses were put in her mouth to allow her to breathe as a team of scientists conducted about 12 research projects in 15 minutes including blood samples, he said in an interview.

"It has just exploded the science forward on these apex predators ... which are essential to make sure we have a future ocean full of fish."

Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., said Lydia's vast range is instructive.

"If we want to understand these animals and even more importantly, protect them from extinction, then we've got to work with other countries."

Lydia has travelled north when scientists would have expected her to be south. Another tracking tag indicated she dives more than 1,000 metres deep, Hueter said.

Anyone can follow Lydia online to see the latest data as researchers are getting it, he added.

"This is a very inclusive process of engaging not just fellow scientists but the public as we watch Lydia do her thing."