Shark Week is almost over, but one of the most exciting shows of the year is airing tonight.
Tonight at 9 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific) tune in to Discovery Channel to watch âGreat White Highway,â which follows the secret lives of great white sharks off the Pacific Coast. And perhaps youâll recognize the narrator â heâs the one and only actor and Oceana board member Ted Danson.
Hereâs the show's description:
Right outside the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is home to some of the biggest great white sharks in the world... but only for part of the year. Teams of scientists from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey Bay have spent years tagging and tracking these sharks to find out why they come here, why they leave and where they go when they do â out into the Pacific on the Great White Highway. But the sharks have kept much about their lives completely secret, leaving researchers with little information about what they spend their summers doing and almost no idea about where they mate or bear their young. Now, armed with new technologies, the team is hoping to wire the ocean and find out how these sharks live their lives â and why California is one of the biggest stops on the Great White Highway.
And if you havenât already, add your name to our petition to list the US West Coast population of great whites on the endangered species list.
That man-eating shark from Jaws may be fictional, but that doesnât stop people from believing that sharks are out to get us â even though itâs not true at all.
Chris Neff, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, gave this talk at TEDxSydney about his research on the politics of shark attacks. In it, he identifies the three main misconceptions when it comes to shark-human interactions:
1. Sharks do not âattackâ.
2. Rogue sharks donât exist.
3. People donât always react negatively to sharks following a shark bite.
Stories of sharks biting humans are uncommon, but get a lot of media attention when they do happen and are often sensationalized. A recent increase in shark accidents in Sydney, Australia prompted calls for a massive culling of the shark population.
But the thing is, sharks arenât attacking humans maliciously. As Neff says, âtrying to govern ungovernable events distracts us from real shark bite prevention.â Instead of killing even more of these important predators, we should be restricting areas where humans can swim and dive and changing our own behavior to prevent future accidents.
Because when it comes to sharks, âweâre in the way, not on the menu.â
Theyâre the stars of Shark Week, one of the most iconic creatures in the ocean. But how well do you really know the great white shark?
White sharks are known by many namesâgreat white, white pointer, Carcharodon carcharias, even white death. Theyâre the largest existing predatory fish in the ocean, and theyâve been around for about 16 million years. Theyâre found in coastal waters in all of the worldâs major oceans.
The average great white measures in around 14 feet long (the females are generally a few feet longer than the males). An average individual weighs between 1,500 and 2,400 pounds. The largest white sharks ever measured came in around 20 feet long and weighed nearly 5,000 pounds.
All that size makes these sharks powerful predators. Their bite force is an estimated 1.8 tonsâthatâs 20 times the bite force of the average human! This powerful bite is coupled with multiple rows of sharp, serrated teeth that help the shark saw off pieces of fish.
Great whites also have an additional sense that allows them to detect the electromagnetic field emitted by the movement of living animals. By searching for these tiny electromagnetic pulses and using their excellent sense of smell, sharks can seek out prey from miles away.
In the social structure of white sharks, females dominate males, and size matters. They resolve conflict through rituals and displays of power, and rarely attack one another. Some sharks have even shown behavior that appears playful!
Great whites have earned a bad reputation as ferocious man-eaters due to movies like Jaws and stories about rogue sharks attacking humans. Truth is, great whites arenât all that interested in humans. They would rather eat a fish or a seal than a human. While a significant proportion of shark accidents around the world involve white sharks, most are not fatal. Great whites are curious sharks, and will give an unknown object a sample bite, then release it.
These powerful creatures may be at the top of the food chain, but their biggest predator is humans. Only a few hundred great whites are left in the population off the coasts of California and Mexico, and theyâre not getting the protection they need. Sign today to help get great whites covered by the Endangered Species Act.
Whether you fear them or admire them, most people have an instant reaction when they hear great white shark.
Intrigue, mystery, and terror have guided attention on great white sharks since they lit up the screens in the 1975 thriller âJaws.â The film made history 37 years ago for its chilling characterization of these powerful sharks, and swimming in the open ocean has never been the same since.
Great whites are making history once again, this time for their globally declining populations from bycatch in commercial fisheries, capture in beach protective nets, and slaughter for their fins, teeth, and jaws in the shark fin and curio trade.
Here on the US West Coast, new scientific studies have shed light on the status of great white sharks off California and Baja California, Mexico. Our great white sharks are even more unique than we thought; in fact they are genetically distinct and isolated from all other great white sharks around the world. They congregate off Mexican Islands and the âred triangleâ off Central California (including the Farallon Islands, Point Reyes, and Point Sur), and make extensive offshore migrations to the distant âwhite shark CafĂ©â and even to the Hawaiian Islands.
But, sadly there may be as little as a few hundred adult great white sharks remaining in this population, far less than anyone expected. This low population alone puts these great whites at great risk of extinction from natural and human-caused impacts. Continued existence of these West Coast great white sharks is threatened by their low population size, inherent vulnerability to capture, slow growth rate, low reproductive output, and the ongoing threats they face from human activities. This is why Oceana is petitioning the federal government and the state of California to list this population of iconic sharks on the Endangered Species List.
What is threatening great white sharks off California and Mexico?
Young great white sharks are un-intentionally caught as bycatch in commercial fishing entangling nets. Set and drift gillnets--which together target California halibut, yellowtail, white seabass, thresher sharks and swordfish--catch great white shark pups in their nursery grounds.
Since 1980, over 10 great white shark pups have been reported being caught in these nets every year. The scary part is that monitoring of bycatch on these fishing vessels is very low so take of these pups remains underreported. In other words, more great white sharks are caught than we are aware.
Additionally, young great white shark âpupsâ caught in their nursery grounds off the Southern California coast have the second highest mercury level tested on record for any sharks worldwide. These mercury levels exceed six-fold the established thresholds where harmful physiological effects have been documented in other marine fish. Levels of harmful contaminants of PCBs and DDTs in their liver tissue are the highest observed in any shark species reported to date globally.
Endangered species status will bestow additional protections to white sharks, including better monitoring and management to reduce fishery bycatch and additional research to further understand these fascinating top predators of the sea.
As much as we may fear them for their bad rap, we need great white sharks to keep our oceans healthy. Just as wolves keep deer populations under control, great white sharks play a critical top-down role in structuring the marine ecosystem by keeping prey populations in check, such as sea lions and elephant seals, benefiting our fisheries and abundant wildlife.
Listing the West Coast population of great white sharks on the Endangered Species List will help us learn more about the lives and threats of these amazing animals through additional research funding and protection measures.
Please help us in our efforts to protect US West Coast great white sharks from extinction by signing a letter of support for their listing on the Endangered Species Act.
Happy Shark Week!
Sharks are the center of a lot of stories and urban legends, but you might be surprised by the truth behind some of the most common myths about sharks. In honor of Shark Week, weâre going to dispel some of the major myths surrounding sharks and shark behavior.
MYTH #1: All sharks are voracious predators, looking to attack anything in sight, including humans.
FACT: While some shark species do have aggressive tendencies, most hunt only to find food (and humans arenât on the menu). Just like other top predators, sharks make a meal out of animals lower in the food web, keeping the ocean habitat in balance. Only a few species have been known to attack humans unprovoked, and thatâs often because of poor visibility or inquisitive bites. There are even species, like the whale shark and the basking shark, that are filter feeders that eat fish eggs, krill, and other microorganisms in the water.
MYTH #2: Sharks do not attack at midday.
FACT: Itâs true that there are fewer attacks in the middle of the day, but thatâs not because sharks arenât active thenâitâs because everybodyâs out of the water eating lunch. Sharks are most active at dawn and dusk, but itâs possible to encounter at shark at nearly any time of day.
MYTH #3: Sharks have walnut-sized brains.
FACT: Sharks are actually pretty smart! They have some of the largest brains in the fish world (along with their close relatives, rays), and their brain-to-body size ratios are similar to birds and mammals. Sharks have been known to exhibit complex social behavior, curiosity, and play in the wild. Many species live in groups and hunt in packs.
MYTH #4: In order to stay alive, a shark must constantly be moving.
FACT: The movement of swimming allows water to pass over a sharkâs gills so that they can breathe, but some species have adaptations that allow them to stay still and breathe at the same time. When resting, some sharks can lie on the sea floor and actively pump water over their gills.
MYTH #5: Sharks have no predators.
FACT: Yes itâs true that sharks are at the top of the food chain, but they have a very powerful predator: humans. Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins, sport, or caught and killed as bycatch. By removing so many of these important predators without allowing them time to restore their populations, weâre disrupting the balance of the marine food web.
The great white shark, the most iconic shark in the ocean, faces serious threats off the West coast of the United States. Only a few hundred are left, and their populations arenât recovering quickly â unless we do something. Sign today to help improve protections for great white sharks in the Pacific.
During Shark Week we love watching majestic great whites on TV, but if we donât act soon to protect them, recordings will be the only place they exist.
In the Pacific, great whites are important predators. As the largest predatory fish on the planet, they can reach lengths over 20 feet and weigh more than 5,000 pounds. Theyâre shaped like torpedoes and can swim through the water at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. Great whites can detect electromagnetic currents in the ocean and have such a sharp sense of smell that they can identify blood in the water from up to 3 miles away. You canât deny that these are impressive animals.
As fearsome as they might be as predators, theyâre not the killing machines that theyâre often identified as. They use all those prey-detecting skills to help keep the marine food web intact â without great whites, the oceanâs balance would be thrown off.
But that might be what the future holds, if nothing is done. A recent study found that there may only be a few hundred adults left swimming off the coast of California and Mexico, far fewer than anyone expected. And those that are left face deadly dangers from fishing nets.
Newborn great whites are often killed by commercial fishing gear off of Southern California and Baja California, making it hard for the populations to stabilize.
Sharks have inhabited the oceans for more than 400 million years and now theyâre disappearing because of human actions. Weâre working to get US great whites the protection they need â sign today to help get great white sharks on the Endangered Species Act.
Shark Week starts on Sunday â stay tuned for lots more sharky updates!
Thanks for celebrating shark week with us - don't forget to take action to protect threatened sharks if you haven't already!
Editor's note: Happy Shark Week! All week long weâve been re-capping some highlights from Shark Week programming. Today we review last night's "Shark City."
Shark Week wrapped up last night with an appearance from this yearâs Chief Shark Officer, Andy Samberg, in âShark City.â
This episode was unique from the others that premiered so far this week in that several sharks were followed within a Bahamian marine protected area, so that viewers were able to get to know these individuals on a more personal level. Shark city seems like the ideal home for these sharks, but many sharks are migratory and this area is unfortunately an oasis in an otherwise dangerous ocean. Even though fishing is not allowed in the reserve, it occurs elsewhere nearby and sharks can become entangled in fishing gear.
I might play a blood-sucking vampire on âTrue Blood,â but in real life Iâm a devoted animal lover and conservationist.
In the past few weeks, Iâve followed the proposed ban on the shark fin trade in California, and â in honor of Shark Week â 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:
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 worldâs 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 Channelâs 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 Oceanaâs 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.