The Beacon

Blog Tags: Sharks

'Demon Fish' Author Discusses Human-Shark Relations

demon fish

When journalist Juliet Eilperin began reporting the stories that have led to her most recent book, she says, “Many people said it was a natural transition from politicians to sharks.” 

At a National Geographic Live event in DC last night, she discussed her book “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks,” about how human relationships with sharks have developed over centuries, and what may lie in their future.

She began by discussing the central role sharks played in the lives of traditional island cultures, from the shark god whom Hawaiians credited with inventing surfing to the common belief that sharks protected ships. But Eilperin said that during the Middle Ages, many European cultures essentially forgot about sharks.

Stark reminders of their power came when sailors noticed sharks following slave ships, and again in the early 1900s, when shark attacks on beachgoers were widely publicized. These incidents played into political campaigns and prompted government committees.

“There’s no question,” Eilperin said, “that Jaws had an incredible impact” on popular perceptions of sharks and their danger to humans. On average, shark attacks kill only five people a year, far less than other large predators, diseases, or even vending machines. However, she is quick to note that while plenty of people—even marine biologists!—were caught up in the scare, there were also some who became inspired to study sharks.


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Victory! California Senate Passes Shark Fin Trade Ban

Things continue to look up for sharks in the Pacific.

Last night the California Senate passed a ban on the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of shark fins in the state.  Oceana was instrumental in the passage of this bill to protect the ocean’s apex predators.

If the bill is signed into law by Governor Brown by October 9, a sweeping West Coast ban on the trade of shark fins will be complete. Washington passed similar legislation in May, followed by Oregon in early August. Hawaii, Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands have also passed similar bills.

While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the issue of the shark fin trade. As a result, fins are imported to the U.S. from countries with little to no shark protections in place. The only way to really address California’s contribution to the global declines in shark populations is to address the market demand for fins in the state.

The passage of this bill will help to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.

Thanks to everyone who spoke up to help score this victory for sharks! You can see a list of the Senators who voted "aye" for the bill here.


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Friday Infographic: Sharks

We’ve been featuring infographics by artist Don Foley for the past few Fridays, but we thought it appropriate wrap up shark week with a snazzy infographic by shark-loving blogger Kaelah Bee.

Thanks for celebrating shark week with us - don't forget to take action to protect threatened sharks if you haven't already!

Infographic by Kaelah Bee. Click to enlarge.

 

 


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Breaking: Oregon Governor Signs Shark Fin Trade Ban

Great news this shark week! We just got word that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber will sign a bill this afternoon banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins in the state. Oceana was instrumental in the passage of this bill, which passed the State House and Senate with bipartisan support. 

The bill’s passage moves the U.S. West Coast closer to a full ban on the trade of shark fins, thereby helping to protect global populations of at-risk shark species that are being targeted in unsustainable and unregulated fisheries worldwide.

While shark finning is illegal in the U.S., current federal laws banning the practice do not address the shark fin trade. As a result, fins are being imported to the U.S. from countries with few or even no shark protections in place. 

Governor Chris Gregoire of Washington State signed similar legislation into law on May 12, 2011 and a bill in the California legislature passed the Assembly and is currently under consideration in committee in the Senate.

We commend Governor Kitzhaber for his extraordinary leadership to protect the ocean’s top predators, and congratulate our Pacific colleagues for their work in achieving this victory!


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Kristin Bauer: Let’s Save Sharks this Shark Week

kristin bauer

Actress and Oceana supporter Kristin Bauer.

I might play a blood-sucking vampire on “True Blood,” but in real life I’m a devoted animal lover and conservationist.

In the past few weeks, I’ve followed the proposed ban on the shark fin trade in California, and – in honor of Shark Week – I wanted to share a letter I recently wrote to California State Senator Paul Fong asking for his help to protect sharks:



Dear Assemblymember Fong and Members of the Legislature:


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Shark Myths vs. Facts

whale shark

The largest fish in the ocean, the whale shark. © Tony Rath

Editor's note: Happy Shark Week! All week long we are re-capping some highlights from Shark Week programming. Today we review last night's "How Sharks Hunt."

Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for over 400 million years, which has given them plenty of time to evolve into some of the most effective marine predators. There are hundreds of species of sharks, and yet each one has its own preferred prey (fortunately, none of them prefer humans) and also a unique way of hunting.

Last night's episode, "How Sharks Hunt," featured Dave and Cody from Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival series as they explored the various methods that sharks stalk and attack their prey. There was a lot of exciting underwater footage taken by high-tech cameras showing various sharks in hunting mode.

For more info on sharks and their amazing abilities, check out Oceana’s myths versus facts sheet, where we set the record straight on some of the most common (and some of the most unusual) myths about sharks.

Here are a few examples:

Myth: Sharks are all the same.

Fact: Shark species are incredibly diverse with very different sizes, shapes, habitats, diets and behaviors. There are approximately 500 shark species, but only three (white, tiger and bull) are responsible for the majority of all bites.


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Can Sharks 'Go Rogue'?

great white shark

Great white shark in South Africa. [Image via Discovery.com]

Editor's note: Happy Shark Week! All week long we'll be re-capping some highlights from Shark Week programming. Today we review "Going Rogue" and "Summer of the Shark."

Would a shark ever “go rogue” and start mercilessly attacking humans? That’s the question that last night’s episode in the Shark Week lineup sought to answer. Ever since New England beachgoers were terrorized by a rogue shark in “Jaws,” it has been a common fear that sharks, particularly great whites, are ruthless, man-eating machines.

This episode shed some light on the matter with a mix of shark attack stories and scientific studies on shark behavior. The conclusions likely elicited a collective sigh of relief across America: Sharks have never in fact gone rogue like Jaws did, but instead almost always bite a human as a result of other environmental factors at play.

In reality, the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is extremely slim. So for all the readers out there who were wondering whether it was safe to go back in the water, consider the possibility of a shark going rogue to be out of the question.


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An Invasion of Great White Sharks?

great white shark

Great white shark. © Oceana/David Stephens

Editor's note: Happy Shark Week! All week long we'll be re-capping some highlights from Shark Week programming, starting with today, and "Great White Invasion."

Great white sharks appear to be more common than ever nowadays, according to “Great White Invasion,” which aired last night as a part of Shark Week's first night of programming. The episode tracked these huge predators as they encroach on popular beaches from Australia to South Africa to southern California.

Why they are coming closer to shore is not completely understood, but scientists point to the availability of fish as well as the opportunity for sharks to sunbathe and enjoy higher oxygen levels in shallower waters as possible explanations. And even though the number of annual shark attacks worldwide has risen in recent years, it is still extremely low compared to the number of beachgoers.

So are great whites really “invading” our coastlines? Not quite. In fact, according to the Census for Marine Life, scientists estimate that there are only about 3,500 great white sharks left in the entire world. Of these, an estimated 219 live off the central California coast, so in reality, sharks aren’t exactly swarming in our oceans just yet.


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Friday Infographic: Fishing Down the Food Chain

This is the second in a series of ocean infographics by artist Don Foley. These infographics also appear in Oceana board member Ted Danson’s book, “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them.”  

With shark week fast approaching, how about a shark-related infographic to whet your appetite?

Today’s infographic illustrates how overfishing fundamentally alters ocean ecosystems, leading to fewer and smaller fish over time.

Infographic by Don Foley

If overfishing isn’t stopped, the largest fish like sharks, tuna, cod, and salmon eventually run out and overfishing expands to previously untargeted, smaller spe­cies, some of which were considered undesirable. As a result, the world catch is now primarily made up of small fish like pollock rather than large predators like grouper, and this shift to smaller and smaller species over time is called “fishing down the food chain.”


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Shark Week Cometh

Shark Week is almost here -- are you ready?

For the second year in a row, Oceana is partnering with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which kicks off on Sunday, July 31st at 9PM. We’re especially stoked about the host this year, comedian and Chief Shark Officer Andy Samberg.

For a one-hour special, Samberg travels to the Bahamas to swim with sharks off the shores of Nassau. Another of this year’s highlights is “Jaws Comes Home,” a Mike Rowe-narrated feature that follows five great white sharks as they make their 1,200-mile journey up and down the eastern seaboard.

Keep your eyes peeled for the nightly Public Service Announcements (PSAs) that encourage viewers to help protect sharks with Oceana.

Here are a few more ideas for how to celebrate the 24th annual sharktacular:

1. Take Action If even just 10% of all Shark Week viewers took action to protect sharks, that would equal millions of people speaking up for the animals they tune in to see each year.

2. Adopt a Shark. Make a $35 donation and get a shark cookie cutter and recipe card.

3. Play Shark Bingo. Add a little competition to your shark-watching with these Shark Week Bingo Cards. Grab a beverage, and turn it into a drinking game -- you can even use bottle caps as playing pieces.

Check out Discovery’s full programming schedule and stay tuned for our episode recaps and more shark fun next week!


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