The Beacon

Blog Tags: Shark Finning

Sharks by the Numbers

As shark week comes to a close, we thought we’d hit you with the good stuff: numbers. Here are some of the most revealing statistics about sharks that we could find:

400 million: Approximate number of years that sharks have been on planet Earth.

50: Number of shark species that are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species

138,894: Number of people in the U.S. who suffered ladder-related injuries in 1996.

13: Number who suffered shark-related injuries in the U.S. in 1996.

22 million: Amount, in pounds, of shark fins that were imported into Hong Kong in 2008, making it the world’s largest single market for the product.


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Predators as Prey: 10 Threatened Shark Species

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A man unloads shark fins from a longliner in the Canary Islands. © Oceana/LX

We often tell you about the threats facing sharks globally -- finning, bycatch, overfishing -- but we don’t regularly shine a spotlight on the individual species affected.

To continue our ongoing shark-themed posts in honor of Shark Week, here are 10 of the most threatened shark species in the world:

1. Basking sharks are the second largest shark, easily distinguished by their huge, filter-feeding mouths. Basking sharks are caught in target fisheries around the world for their oil, meat and fins, and they are also caught as bycatch in other fisheries.

2. Blue sharks are one of the most previously abundant shark species. Now they are the most heavily fished shark in the world. An estimated 10-20 million individuals are killed by fisheries annually, mostly as bycatch. Blue shark meat is beginning to replace swordfish in many Mediterranean countries and the fins are commonly used in shark fin soup.

3. Deep-sea sharks have huge livers that contain high amounts of oil to regulate their buoyancy at depths. As a result, they are caught by deep-sea trawls, gillnets and longlines for an oily substance found in their livers called squalene. Squalene, or its derivative squalane, is found in many cosmetic products.


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Whale Sharks: Belize’s Gentle Giants

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© 2010 Tony Rath/tonyrath.com

And now, for something entirely different… a brief respite from the oil spill madness. A reminder of the beauty of the seas from Oceana scientist Margot Stiles. - Emily

Every spring Belize hosts one of nature’s great wonders: the arrival of whale sharks in search of spawning snapper. This year I had the pleasure of witnessing it first hand, on last month’s Oceana expedition.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea at 60 feet long, but it is mild-mannered and harmless to people. Around the full moons of March through June each year, whale sharks arrive and begin feeding at the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve near Placencia, Belize.

Tony Rath of Naturalight Productions has spent thirty years photographing wildlife in Belize and still beams at the mention of his most recent expedition with Oceana. “Seeing whale sharks this close is an unforgettable experience, as inspiring as seeing a puma or any of the large animals on land,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more. Despite hundreds of dives around the world, I found swimming side-by-side with a whale shark truly sublime, a transcendent moment I’ll look back on for many years to come.


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Ocean Hero Finalists: The Shark Finatics

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The Shark Finatics with teacher Robin Culler. Image courtesy Robin Culler.

This is the ninth in a series of posts about the 2010 Ocean Hero finalists.

The Shark Finatics are a group of students at Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York. Green Chimneys is renowned for helping emotionally injured children through animal-assisted therapy.

Teacher Robin Culler has worked in the Speech Department for over 11 years. When she read a book about sharks aloud to her students, they were horrified to learn about the brutal practice of shark finning and vowed to tell as many people as they could.

The students, who soon became known as the Shark Finatics, decided to "adopt" a shark. They helped make shark magnets to raise money for their first shark, Jonny, from Fox Shark Research. In 2009, they were proud adoptive parents to 21 sharks.

Through various projects, they have raised more than $2,000 for shark research and conservation organizations around the world. And they have reached out to hundreds of people about the threats facing sharks.


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A Big Thank You to Some Small Shark Supporters

I recently got some very heartening news here at Oceana from some of our youngest supporters.

The seventh and second grade students at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas were inspired by our “Scared for Sharks” campaign and raised more than $2,500 for Oceana through a week of bake sales and a “Caring Color Day,” where students wore blue and gray "shark colors" and donated $2 each.  

It was especially nice to hear this news in light of the recent decision by CITES not to protect endangered marine species, including sharks.  

Of course, Oceana is still moving forward to protect sharks around the world. We’ve already helped the United States become a leader in shark protections, and we’re continuing to push the U.S. to put a final end to shark finning, the brutal fishing practice that is responsible for tens of millions of shark deaths every year.  

We’ll use the donation from the students of Good Shepherd to continue to fight to save sharks. You can help today, too, by donating or asking your senators to support legislation that ends shark finning. 


Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana.


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Sights on CITES: Hope for Sharks

This is the seventh in a series of posts from CITES. Check out the rest of the dispatches from Doha here.

While CITES has disappointed so far on bluefin tuna and corals, there's hope yet for sharks

Eight shark species have been proposed for listing to Appendix II of CITES, including the oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, dusky, sandbar, smooth hammerhead, great hammerhead, porbeagle and spiny dogfish.

Listing these species, which are threatened by shark finning, is necessary to ensure international trade does not drive these shark species to extinction.

Here's Oceana's Ann Schroeer from our Brussels office with an optimistic outlook on the upcoming shark proposals at CITES.

 


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Q&A with Shark Biologist Michelle McComb

michelle mccomb

Michelle McComb with juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks at the Hawaiian Institute of Maine Biology at Coconut Island. © Dr. Stephen Kajiura.

A study in the Journal of Experimental Biology made big news late last year by beginning to answer a fundamental, fable-like question: why are hammerhead sharks shaped the way they are? The answer, as it turns out? The better to see their prey with, my dear.

The researchers found some surprising results about hammerhead vision. One of those researchers, Michelle "Mikki" McComb of Florida Atlantic University, happens to also be an enthusiastic Oceana supporter. Mikki was kind enough to answer some questions about the research:

Can you summarize the conclusions you and your colleagues reached about hammerhead vision? 

The popular literature is filled with claims that hammerheads have better vision, but this was never tested.  Our goal was to quantify the extent of the visual fields of hammerhead sharks in contrast to more typical head shaped sharks, in order to determine if they possessed binocular vision.

The visual field is the entire expanse of space visible around the head and can be described by one eyes field of view (monocular field), two eyes field (cyclopean) and the overlap of the two monocular fields (binocular overlap). We determined the horizontal and vertical visual fields of three hammerhead shark species as well two closely related “typical” shaped sharks. 

What we found was a surprise!  Hammerhead sharks do have binocular vision, and even more surprising, the extent of binocular overlaps was greater than found in the “typical” shaped sharks.  The largest binocular overlap was found in the winghead shark, the hammerhead with the widest head, and is a result of the positioning of the eyes on the end of the head. 


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