Sunday, May 31, 2009

Four Things EVERYONE needs to know about sharks

Hey there, I wanted to share this article with you all. I know that a lot of people have a great fear of sharks but these amazing creatures do not deserve this stereotype and are so vital to the health of our oceans.

Reposted from

Four things EVERYONE needs to know about sharks

2009 May 10

by whysharksmatter

WhySharksMatterWhile I could talk forever about why sharks matter (I am, as frequent readers know, literally writing a book about the topic), there are a few things that I would like for everyone to know. I do mean EVERYONE. I know that my blog posts reach a pretty small percentage of the world’s population, but some of you guys are pretty passionate about protecting the oceans. Please tell a friend. Please tell your parents. Please tell your children. Please tell your teachers, please tell your students, please tell your classmates. You get the idea… I really would like for EVERYONE to know these few important facts about sharks. I fervently believe that sharks are threatened today because the majority of the world doesn’t know that they are important, and not because the majority of the world wishes them ill, and that public education on a massive scale is key to saving these animals. I can’t do it without you.

1) Sharks do not represent a serious threat to human beings. Yes, some people have died as a result of shark encounters, and any human death is a tragedy, but it is important to keep in mind the relative risk of a shark attack. Of the over 500 species of sharks worldwide, fewer than a dozen have ever been known to kill a human. In an average year, over 650,000 Americans die as a result of heart disease, giving me a 1 in 5 chance of dying of heart disease in my lifetime. In an average year, over 550,000 Americans die from cancer, giving me a 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer in my lifetime. In an average year, over 40,000 Americans die in car accidents, giving me a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a car accident in my lifetime. In an average year, 1 American dies from a shark attack, giving me a 1 in 3,748,067 chance of dying from a shark attack in my lifetime.

Again, any human death is a tragedy, but when you have a 1 in 5 chance of dying from heart disease and a 1 in 4 million chance of dying from a shark attack, should we really be so concerned about the threat to us that sharks represent?

Millions of Americans spend time in the oceans each year. Sharks have been evolving incredible sensory systems, part of what makes them such incredible hunters, for over 400 million years. They can also swim a great deal faster than we can. If they wanted to attack humans, a lot more than one American a year would be killed by a shark. Sharks are simply not a serious threat to us.

If this guy wanted to hurt you, you couldn't outswim him

If this guy wanted to hurt you, you couldn't outswim him. Fortunately for you, sharks don't usually attack people

2) Sharks are important to the health of the oceans. Without them, many ocean ecosystems, including several that are vital to the economy, are in danger of collapsing. This collapse would have devastating ecological and economic consequences… and some of these consequences have already started to happen. In addition to providing natural selection pressure and allowing only the fittest to survive by preying upon the weakest, sickest, and smallest fish, sharks are also important to marine ecosystems in other ways.

In the Outer Banks of North Carolina, tiger shark populations have declined over 97% since 1972. One of their prey items, the cownose ray, has skyrocketed in population without tiger sharks to eat them. These cownose rays eat scallops… and with so many more rays, the scallop population of the Outer Banks has all but collapsed. This is bad news not only for the numerous other organisms that eat scallops, but also for the thousands of people who used to work as scallop fisherman.

A similar event took place in Tasmania. Massive declines in shark populations led to an increase in octopus populations, since there are so many fewer sharks preying on them. These octopus eat, among other things, Tasmanian rock lobsters. The Tasmanian rock lobster fishery is now almost completely gone.

A more complex shark decline related ecosystem destabilization, this one taking place in coral reefs, has led to a decrease in algae-grazing parrotfish populations… and a huge increase in algae. Algae in the Caribbean is starting to take over reefs, killing coral. Coral reefs are home to thousands of unique species of fish and invertebrates, and they generate billions in ecotourism dollars worldwide. This algae takeover is one of the biggest threats facing coral reefs, and food chain destabilization as a result of shark population declines is one of the biggest causes of algae takeover. Losses of sharks are directly related to the destruction of coral reefs.

These guys help keep the oceans healthy

These guys help keep the oceans healthy

3) Sharks are in serious trouble. Many shark species have declined in population over 90% in the last 25 years.

Bycatch is one of the biggest threats facing sharks. While fishing for other species, sharks are caught by accident and are killed.

Another major threat facing sharks is finning. Sharks of many species are caught, their fins are cut off, and the still-living rest of the shark (far less valuable than the fin) is dumped overboard to bleed to death or drown. This brutal and unsustainable practice provides material for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy associated with celebration. The fins, which are made of cartilage, add absolutely no flavor or nutritional value whatsoever to the soup. By some estimates, over 100 million sharks a year are killed for their fins.

These guys are in big trouble

These guys are in big trouble

4)Human beings are better off with sharks than we are without sharks, and we are in danger of losing them forever… but you can help! The absolute most important thing that you can do to help, you are already doing just by reading this. Learn all you can about sharks, their ecological and economic importance, and the threats they face. Pass on what you have learned to others. Public education will help far more sharks than these guys ever will. The more people that know about this, the better off sharks will be!

If we teach people about sharks, we can save them

If we teach people about sharks, we can save them


All photographs of and by the author

Thanks for reading. Our whale watching tours are scheduled to start on June 20th! Stay tuned for more information!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Sighting of Pike!

Hey there, I have some news about a little humpback that we are familiar with at Quoddy Link. Pike (Six's 2007 calf) who we saw during the 2008 season has been sighted off Stellwagan Bank! We will have to see if this young whale continues north to visit the Bay of Fundy feeding grounds.

The 2009 Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Naming Event is now over and I have one more whale to add to list that I got to name. This is the Amulet's 2006 calf now named Origami (On the leading edge of the LF in the white area close to the tip of the fluke there is a black mark that looks like an origami swan)

Thanks for checking in today. Below is a collage of the whales that I have had the privilege to name this year. Cheers!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A New Name for Six's 2007 Calf!

Hey everyone, I have some news to report on the 2009 Humpback Whale Naming Event. The past few weeks we have been working on giving some great names to some young whales. The whales involved in this round of naming are previously sighted calves, which simply means that these whales were seen with their moms and then seen again on the feeding grounds, on their own, at least a year later. The first name I want to tell you about is Six's 2007 calf that I photographed on September 19th, the first time this young whale was seen without its mom. This young whales new name is Pike (named for "The black line looks like a spear. A pike weapon is similar to a spear".

Also, 3 of my suggested names were selected for some young whales in the Gulf of Maine (not seen in the Bay of Fundy)

This young whale is Reaper's 2007 calf and is now named Longboard (On the right fluke, towards the tip, there is a black mark that looks like a skateboard going down a hill. A longboard is just longe than a skateboard and has softer wheels)

This is Palette's 2007 calf and is now named Marionette (On the LF hanging down from the trailing edge it looks like the leg from a marionette puppet)

And this young whale is the 2007 calf of Filament and is now named Marsh (For the tallgrass on the right fluke)

There will be some voting going on for the next 2 days and I have 3 other names that are currently leading! So far, for the 2009 naming I have named 9 whales. Yeah, I'm excited. I will keep you posted.

Cheers and thanks for checking in today.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Hello everyone, it's Danielle with Quoddy Link and I just wanted to wish everyone, including my Mom is St. Catharines and very happy Mother's Day.

Speaking of mom's, I do want to report that there have already been 12 new humpback moms reported in the Gulf of Maine. Last year was very impressive with 87 confirmed humpback calves. Another big Happy Mother's Day goes out to the 38 North Atlantic right whale mom's this year. This is a fantastic number of calves born into a critically endangered population.

The photo below is Six's 2007 calf that will be officially getting named this weekend. The votes must be submitted by Monday and I will let you know when I hear the results.

Thanks for checking in and check back soon, our 2009 season is set to begin on June 20th! Come down to St. Andrews and join us on the Bay of Fundy!