shark week

Shark Myths vs. Facts

Posted Thu, Aug 4, 2011 by Cassandra Ornell to shark myths vs facts, shark week, sharks

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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South Africa’s Deadliest Year for Sharks

Posted Wed, Aug 3, 2011 by Cassandra Ornell to durban, shark attacks, shark week, south africa

A great white shark off the coast of South Africa. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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

 Last night’s Shark Week episode, “Killer Sharks,” tells the tale of Black December, the label South Africans gave to the period from December 1957 through April 1958 because of the rash of shark attacks that occurred near Durban.

Unlike the other episodes that have aired so far, this one takes place completely in the past, and so the entire episode consists of dramatic re-enactment with a few authentic clips interspersed where possible.

Seven deadly shark attacks happened in the area, and all the while Dr. Harris, a marine biologist, worked hard to get to the bottom of them. He discovered that it was not merely one rogue shark causing all the problems, but that there were hundreds of them in the area. But what was bringing them so close to the tourist beaches?

It just so happened that December 1957 marked the beginning of the perfect storm for shark attacks: whaling vessels offshore were attracting sharks to the area; rivers were flooding and washing livestock out to sea, introducing new food sources and making the water murky; and there were more tourists than ever in the water due to recent resort development.

In other words, this event was extremely unusual, and highly unlikely to occur again (in fact, it remains one of the worst in history, over 50 years later). The average number of fatal shark attacks per year worldwide is four, which is lower than the number that occurred in South Africa over the four month period in this episode. 

What’s more, as Dr. Harris said in this episode, shark research was in its infancy in the 1950s, and we have come a long way since then in our understanding of these creatures and what environmental factors may trigger such behavioral changes.

Check out more shark attack statistics, tips on how to avoid a shark attack, and take action to protect sharks!


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Shark Steaks for Dinner? No Thanks.

mako shark

Mako shark. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

It’s Shark Week over at Discovery Channel, and that means everyone’s talking about them: sharks at the beach, sharks hunting seals, scuba diving with sharks, but…eating sharks?

We found a piece at esquire.com called A Man's Guide to Eating Shark, for Shark Week or Otherwise which explains, after acknowledging the conservation concerns for the species, a few ways to cook a mako shark right at home for dinner.

We like eating seafood, as long as it is sustainable. And shortfin mako is not; it’s listed as vulnerable to extinction on the IUCN Red List (as is its cousin the longfin mako). The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) determined that overfishing of shortfin mako sharks is occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Recently, NMFS launched a program to encourage fishermen to release shortfin mako sharks alive back into the sea after being caught. This will help stop overfishing of the species and maintain a healthy population for the future. There is even an interactive online map and an Android app where fishermen can report their releases of shortfin makos back into the ocean.

As if being overfished wasn’t enough, sharks can also contain toxins like mercury in excess of the FDA’s recommended limits for moms and children. Certainly something to think about the next time someone recommends putting some shark on the barbie.

Do your part by telling the U.S. government to protect threatened sharks!


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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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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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Get Your Fins on an Official Shark Week Party Kit

oceanic white tip shark

We’ve got Shark Week fever early this year and it is contagious! Or at least, we hope so, because we’ve got 10 official Shark Week party kits on our hands. Want to get a hold of one? It’s pretty simple.

Before noon tomorrow, Tuesday July 19, pop over to Twitter and send this tweet:

I want an official #SharkWeekPartyKit, so I'm following @Oceana and saving sharks ow.ly/5BqPl

Make sure you are following us (@Oceana) on Twitter, because that’s how I’ll be getting in touch with our lucky winners later this week. Want bonus feel good points, too? Make sure to take action to save sharks, too.

But let’s back up a second. What’s even in an official Shark Week party kit? In a cool Shark Week backpack, you'll find...

-       a Shark Week tee shirt
-       coasters
-       cookie cutter
-       recipe card
-       balloons
-       napkins
-       bottle opener
-       bingo cards
-       episode guide
-       shark fact sheet
-       page to collect your friends’ signatures in the fight to save sharks

Whew! Are you tired reading that? I know I got a bit winded just typing it.

As for rules, I’ll be using a random generator to pick our winners, so don’t do anything sneaky like create a million accounts to try to cheat the system. Plus, I’m only going to count one tweet per person. And sorry, international fans - this one’s just for the US tweeters.

So, tweet away (just once, remember!) and share the Shark Week fever!


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3 Ways to Get Ready for Shark Week

great white shark

On July 31, Shark Week is back!  Need some ideas on how to celebrate this, the sharkiest time of year? We're here for you:

1.    Share the Shark Week Love
Have your friends over for a watch party. Check out the programming schedule. I recommend "Jaws Comes Home" on July 31, but there's a full week of great shark shows to pick from.

Don’t know what to serve? Shark cookies, of course! Make a $35 donation and get a shark cookie cutter and recipe card so your friends can take a bite out of a great white while watching great whites take a bite out of seals.

2.    Shark Week 2.0
Bump up your watch party guest list by a few thousand. Take photos and share them with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Have shark questions? Ask away on Facebook and Twitter and our shark experts will keep you shark savvy.

3.    Save Sharks
For one week a year, over 30 million Americans are glued to their TV sets, transfixed by incredible stories of amazing, powerful sharks. But the true story is that they can’t save themselves from their top predator: us.

Caught on fishing lines and targeted for their fins, shark numbers are dropping, and fast. 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.

Make sure that Shark Week isn’t the only time we can see sharks. They are great to watch on TV, but we need them in the wild, too.


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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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