Though it may sound oxymoronic to some, a harmless shark washed up on Gilgo Beach in Long Island on Tuesday, much to the surprise -- and delight -- of the many beachgoers. And like they always say, appearances can be deceiving, as this basking shark was 20-feet long and weighed in at about 2000 pounds.
Basking sharks are not considered dangerous, despite the fact that they are the second largest fish in the world. But because they eat plankton, basking sharks do not have any teeth. The cause of death for this basking shark is still unknown—the body doesn’t look like it has had any major incidents.
It used to be that if you went on a whale-watching adventure, you'd be lucky to see even a blow. Now, especially in Baja California, Mexico, whales are getting closer to humans than ever, which is allowing us to see how similar whales actually are to humans. In an insightful article by Charles Siebert in Sunday’s New York Times he discusses his experiences with the very friendly gray whales in Baja and argues that these new insights into the behavior of gray whales are forcing humans to “reconsider and renegotiate what once seemed to be a distinct boundary between our world and theirs”. Siebert remembers watching a mother whale and her calf breach from afar, and then, surprisingly, pursue the boat. The whales came right up to him, even allowing him to touch the newborn. They performed what could only be called a show, as the whales turned, flipped, and wove around the boat. And, as the grand finale, his boat was lifted up out of the water on the mother’s back. Whales have now come to consider humans as “safe” and trustworthy, he argues, even after all the harm humans caused them in the past. Siebert proposes that whales have “behavioral flexibility” and are giving humans another chance.
Marine wildlife is estimated to consume between 150 and 300 million metric tons of krill each year. So it’s pretty safe to say that it’s a good thing a ban on fishing for krill in US Pacific waters became federal regulation on Monday. The move ends a years-long advocacy campaign led by Oceana and supported by scientists, conservationists, and fishermen. The federal regulations mirror those of state limits out to three miles offshore in Washington, Oregon and California. Krill, a catch-all term for 85 species of small shrimp-like creatures, forms the foundation of many marine food webs. Animals such as salmon, whales, and sea lions all heavily rely on krill for survival. The ban also shows a new way of managing fisheries that prioritizes the health of marine ecosystems, and not just one species. Oceana is a strong supporter of ecosystem-based management. Congrats to all who were involved in making this happen!
Everybody loves a good success story, especially when it has to do with adorable animals. On July 9, the National Aquarium in Baltimore returned Hamilton, a male harbor seal rehabilitated by the Marine Animal Rescue Program, back to the sea.
He was found in February, stranded on a beach in Bermuda, severely underweight and with an open wound 270 degrees around his neck caused by commercial fishing netting. Hamilton was then flown to the US, where he gained about eighty pounds and was treated for abscesses.
Named after the capital city of Bermuda, Hamilton now weighs 139 pounds and eats almost ten pounds of fish each day. In addition, Hamilton was fitted with a satellite tag to track his journey. Congrats and good luck, Hamilton!
This week in ocean news,
… The New England Aquarium is trying a different tactic in fighting child obesity: using seals and sea lions’ energy to inspire kids. Seals and sea lions perform stretches with trainers and show off their jumping and swimming tricks. And some kids will even be allowed into the seals’ swimming area to exercise with them.
… a rescued loggerhead sea turtle named after President Barack Obama was released on July 4 after being held in rehab since January 19, the day before President Obama’s inauguration.
…fish are getting bigger ears. And not to hear better, either. Ocean acidification is causing larger otoliths (a structure in the inner ear) in the larvae of white sea bass. Basically, it’s as if the fish are experiencing vertigo all day long.
Do me a favor and try this: stay where you are and click your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Now walk somewhere else, and click your tongue again. Can you hear a difference? Congratulations, you’re on your way to learning how to echolocate! Whales and dolphins use echolocation to navigate and locate objects in the dark ocean. According to acoustic experts in Spain, people can use tongue clicks to “see” things by listening to the way the noise reverberates off its surroundings. All you have to do is recognize changes in your tongue clicks based on what is around you. Apparently, two hours per day for a couple of weeks is enough to determine if something is in front of you, and it takes a couple more weeks to differentiate between a tree and pavement. The most ideal sound is the “palate click” where you place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth and quickly move your tongue backwards.
If you’re like me, fireworks are always the highlight of the Fourth of July weekend. You stare up in awe at these massive explosions of color, and when it’s over, you always wish for more. However, this July 4, especially if you plan to watch fireworks in Florida, be aware of the effects that you may be having on nesting sea turtles and coral reefs.
This weekend falls right in the middle of the nesting period for sea turtles, who come up onto the beach to lay their eggs. Sea turtles like dark, quiet beaches, so as I’m sure you can imagine, thousands of people on the beach watching fireworks pose quite a problem for the turtles.
Firework watchers should be careful to properly dispose of garbage; otherwise it may end up in a sea turtle’s stomach. In addition, boaters should be careful of where they anchor their boats, as many times spectators drop their anchors on coral reefs, some of which contain coral species that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
I’m sure you can remember the first time you saw the movie Jaws. In fact, I bet the theme song is playing in your head right now. Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of the filming of that infamous July 4 beach scene.
Crowds of bathing suit-clad extras screamed and ran from the water over and over again until the scene was perfect. Yet, here’s the thing: Jaws is a movie. And those extras were simply acting. Because the truth is, despite the ever-present hysteria—see "Sharks as Serial Killers? Try Again”—that beach scene is probably never going to happen to you. And what's more, we're the ones putting sharks in danger of extinction.
Even though shark attacks are publicity magnets, there are many beach activities that are more dangerous than sharks. They include: driving to the beach, drowning, boating accidents, collapsing sand and even getting hit in the head with a coconut. And only 3 of the more than 350 species of sharks are associated with nearly two-thirds of all shark attacks.
So if you’re lucky enough to be on the beach watching fireworks this July 4, declare your freedom from shark fears. Steven Spielberg wouldn’t want you to worry.