south africa

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!


Continue reading...

Unpacking the Shark Myth: ‘Demon Fish’

demon fish

Washington Post environment and politics reporter Juliet Eilperin has a new book out today that explores the science and mythology behind the ocean’s top predators.

In “Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks,” Eilperin travels the globe -- she swims with whale sharks in Belize and great white sharks in South Africa -- to investigate how individuals and cultures relate to sharks and how the misperceptions surrounding them threaten their continued existence on the planet.

The book also includes a few nods to Oceana’s shark campaign work, including our work to combat the use of squalane in beauty products, and actress January Jones’ visit to Capitol Hill to advocate for sharks.  

But enough about us, be sure to check out NPR’s great interview with Eilperin, and catch her on tour in the coming months. You can see her full tour schedule as well as excerpts, reviews and other information about the book at www.demonfishbook.com.

Here’s a book trailer for “Demon Fish” to whet your appetite:

 


Continue reading...

Video: Lewis Pugh on Hydrofracking

Lewis Pugh is a British environmentalist, maritime lawyer and Oceana ally. He was the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean, and is probably best known for two impressive feats: his 2007 swim across the North Pole to highlight the melting of Arctic sea ice, and a swim across a glacial lake in the Himalayas 2010 to draw attention to the region’s melting glaciers.

Last week Pugh spoke in Cape Town, South Africa against Shell’s proposed fracking in the country. Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping chemicals, sand, and water underground to break apart rock and release gas. (For more on the controversial practice of hydrofracking see Grist and the New York Times.)

While Oceana doesn’t have a campaign directly dealing with the practice of hydrofracking, we are certainly aligned with Pugh on his bottom line: it’s time to transition away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. Here’s a clip of Pugh’s powerful speech:

 

Here in the U.S., we need your help to stop dirty energy, too. Please speak up by March 30 (tomorrow!) to prevent new offshore drilling for the next five years.


Continue reading...