Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Tattoo

I got my 6th shark tattoo Friday night. This one is dedicated to a special great white just like the one over looking my shoulder. May they live long and roam the ocean forever.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Threats To Sharks

For every human killed by a shark, 20 million sharks are killed by man. Come along with me as we explore some of the threats to sharks and see how conservation of these beautiful creatures is needed. There are five basic threats to sharks.

The first one is boom or bust. Virtually every shark fishery that has been established, has first boomed then, collapsed as a result of over fishing and poor management. This then causes the sharks to decline in number. The price for them then goes up, putting more pressure on the remaining depleted sharks.

The second threat is overfishing. Few management plans or restrictions have been implemented in any country or region, despite the overwhelming evidence of the consequences of over fishing.

By catch is the third threat. Sharks are taken as by catch by fishing operations that target other species. The Blue, Thresher, and Oceanic whitetip sharks are often caught on long lines set for tuna and swordfish. These are just a couple examples of by catch. A lot of the by catch is not reported to keep accurate numbers. In 1993, it was estimated that 8.3 million sharks were caught by swordfish and tuna fisheries.

The fourth threat is the netting that is put around beaches to control the sharks from where people are swimming. These nets have also put sharks under pressure for survival. The sharks get caught in the net and slowly drown. To some degree, human encroachment into the shark's habitats has also put a strain on them. We pull out their nurseries in the name of progress.

Finning is the fifth threat to sharks. This practice is a horrible one, where the sharks are caught and the fins are cut off. The shark is then thrown back into the water to die a slow, painful, death. The amount of sharks that are finned every year is astronomical and NEEDS to be stopped.

Alex "Sharkman" Buttgieg started a one man mission to protect the Great white and Basking sharks around the island of Malta. A local conservation group approached him and offered to join in his fight. Together, they lobbied for the protection of these sharks. On September 24, 1999, the Maltese government issued a legal notice that put the Great white and Basking sharks under protection around Malta. I am proud to be able to say that he is my friend. Please make sure you check out his website at

It is time we put a stop to these threats that are killing the sharks before it is too late. For some sharks, it already may be to late. As Alex proved, it only takes one person to start a chain reaction. Are you willing to be that one?

Remember........Extinction is forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gentle Giant Saved

Off the south Cornwall coast, near Penzance, a 12foot (3.7 meter) Basking shark was caught in a Gill net. She was entangled in the net, left to die a slow, painful death of drowning. Yet fate was smiling kindly on this gentle giant. Thankfully, her luck had not fan out. Unfortunately for another basking shark the week before, it had. It was found dead in a gill net at Perranporth, Cornwall.

3 divers, with Cornwall Wildlife Trust, were out doing a survey in the area, when they came upon the shark. At first, they thought she was dead, but they saw her eyes and mouth moving, letting them know she was alive and needed help. The divers used 2 knives to cut her free. It took 15 minutes to cut her free, and yet to her, it was a lifetime as she struggled to get oxygen over gills. The divers had to turn her over from her belly and help her for a few minutes. She had enough energy to swim off, thanks to the humans who cared.

These divers came upon her just in time. She was very near death. Other sharks are not so lucky. Gill nets are not used just around Cornwall, but all over the world. They claim thousands of sharks lives daily. This is a practice that needs to be stopped, and yet, it increases all the time to the detriment of sharks and other marine life. If the thought of a shark suffering in a net doesn't bother you, think of a turtle or dolphin dieing slowly, as they cannot swim to keep breathing. It doesn't matter what animal you picture, it is still the same painful outcome, a slow death.

Animals of all kind need our help. We use nets, long lines and human encroachment to invade their habitats. We are killing animals at an alarming rate. My passion happens to be sharks, but you could pick any marine animal and the result would be the same, death and extinction. We hunt them in tournaments and fishing trips. What do we gain? Nothing, except vain glory and the loss of a beautiful, intelligent fish. Help stop the slaughter by speaking up or learning more about sharks.

Remember...... Extinction is forever!!!!!!!!!

The Great white

The Great white shark is a unique fish that not only brings beauty to the ocean, but also has a Herculean task to perform, maintaining the balance in the ocean's food chain. It is the landlord of the sea, set apart from the other inhabitants; by it's shape and size.

The robust, torpedo-shaped body and conical snout give the Great white a distinguished look. The two-tone color of this shark gives the perfect camouflage for hunting. the snow-like stomach is carefully hidden by the gunmetal grey of the shark's upper body. It's prey cannot see this cunning predator when it cruises the ocean's floor below.

There is no mistaking the splendor of this striking animal. You can see the agility of the silver warrior as it glides through the open ocean, moving it's enormous body through the water with such ease. It is like watching poetry in motion that flows together perfectly.

The awesome power of this shark is displayed in the devastating blow it deals it's prey. Rocky Strong, a marine biologist, who works with sharks, has said of the Great white, "It shoots first and asks questions later."

It looks slow and bulky and yet when it has to, the Great white can turn on a dime as it leaps out of the water with great speeds and velocity. There is no mistaking this intelligent predator knows how to use it's size and bulk to the best advantage.

It was once thought that the Great white ate people by choice. Research has prove this to be a myth. These "attacks" are accidents. A photographer once said after an "attack", "Obviously, the shark did not want to eat him. It bit down, had a taste and let go. It knew this wasn't its normal prey."

If the shark could express how it feels, it would sound similar to, "I am very misunderstood by mankind. They think I am out to eat them on purpose. What they do not understand is that I do not like the taste of humans. They are bitten by mistake, as soon as I realize they are not a sea lion, I spit them back out and swim away.

The Great white is just an animal trying to survive in this world. It has a place in nature and a job to do. Jean-Michael Cousteau has said "It is their realm, not ours".

The Great white needs respect from mankind. We, as humans need to realize that if we completely kill off this shark, there will be repercussions that cannot be imagined. The sea lion population would boom out of control. This would then create a mass shortage in the fish population. The chain reaction would continue on and on.

the removal of an apex predator from the marine ecosystem would throw everything out of balance. Man will not remain untouched if this series of events gets set into motion. Nature is a gift, not a right, and should be treated as such.

Remember........Extinction is forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Extinction Is Forever

The beauty of the open ocean and the smell of salt in the air. The perfect setting for one of God's most beautiful, mysterious, misunderstood, complex creature to call home. At first, you see a shadow gliding through the water, but it's hard to make out. Then you catch your breath at the size and power of the silver warrior as it approaches. A loner, but one of the most graceful swimmers you will find in the sea. There is no mistaking the awesome beauty and power of the great white.

Though, it is called by several names, none do justice to this robust, powerful fish. To watch the great white glide through the water, moving it's two ton body with such ease, is like watching poetry in motion. So much power and yet so magnificent, with the grace of a ballerina. It's job, to maintain and control the balance in the ocean's echo system. The ultimate predator with no enemies most people would think. Unfortunately, for the great white, that is a false assumption. It has the most deadly enemy of all; man.

After watching a program on shark week "98", I was very saddened at what I had seen. The show was very discouraging in the fact, that there was a disturbing absence of adult sharks. The scientists and great white experts, like Rodney Fox, were not and are still not finding many sharks over 14 feet. A 14 foot great white is considered a juvenile or sub adult. They become adults at around 16 feet. They do not become sexually active until 7 years of age. The gestation period for pups is 12 months and only one or two are born alive. As you can see, it takes years for them to begin breeding. They can not reproduce fast enough to keep up with how many of them are being slaughtered.

Spear and sport have a different view of the facts. Regrettably, for the shark, it could be a very costly and deadly view. It is being said that there is an increase in the population because of the laws that have been enacted to protect the white sharks. There may be some truth to it but, there are many loop holes in them, that the sharks are paying the price. A price that is just too high.

For example, in Australia, you can kill a great white if your life is in danger. Spear fishermen kill 10 to 30 white sharks a year, using this as their reason for killing them. While I except a few in that number actually had their lives in danger, I do not believe all the cases were. The great white is a nuisance to them and this becomes a way to get rid of the nuisance. There is also all the money that can be made from selling great white parts.

Sports fishermen catch them for the fun and thrill of the catch. They say that they are tagging them before they release them so that the scientists can track them. What they fail to mention, is the the trauma from being hooked usually ends fatally for the shark. They build up lactic acid and it kills them. It then no longer becomes a help to the shark, but a detriment.

These are just a few key facts that get left out when they say that the great white population is on the rise, but these are very important facts. They show that the great white population is not doing as well as these groups claim. We need to be listening to the scientists and people who are working with great white population, who are actually doing the research.

With the absence of adult breeders, the great white is on it's way to extinction, sooner than most people think. All because man fears what he doesn't understand, and doesn't want to take the time to educate him or her self.

Movies, like Jaws, feed this fear until there is a need to conquer the great white and other sharks at all costs. At what point do we say enough is enough, the cost is too high? What are you willing to do to help stop this injustice, or do we only take a stand for animals that are cute and cuddly?

You can help by learning more about sharks. Please help, take the time to learn and pass on that knowledge. The great white and other sharks depend on it with their very lives.

Remember........Extinction is forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sharks; Very Misunderstood Creatures

I believe that we, as humans, need to take the time to learn about sharks before forming and opinion about them. Most people have taken how they view sharks from movies and novels written about them. In these movies and books, the sharks are shown as vicious monsters, out to attack any human that comes into their home, the ocean.

You can see this in the following scene taken from the classic horror film, Jaws. A little boy grabs his yellow air mattress and heads for the water. He paddles out in the ocean a short distance. He is kicking and splashing around in the water, when a huge shark approaches him. Blood goes every where and the little boy disappears. Every one panics and runs from the water yelling "SHARK". The deflated air mattress floats to shore with a huge bite missing from it. Many people form opinions from a scene like this one about sharks.

I went with a friend, Cat, to a small aquarium off the coast of California. I had been fascinated with sharks from a very early age. This aquarium, Ocean World, offered tours and a chance to touch a live shark at the end. My friend had never seen the ocean, let alone touch a shark before, so we decided we could not let this opportunity slip by. We paid our admission fee and waited for the tour to begin.

As our tour got under way, we walked by a darkened room, where there sat a small holding tank . As I passed by the room, I looked in and saw a dorsal fin slice through the still water of the tank. My heart started to beat faster, as my palms began to sweat with excitement. I could see the fearful anticipation on Cat's face of what was to come. She was going to be able to actually touch a live shark!

We continued on the tour, but ended up in the room with the small tank when it was over. We all stood around the tank waiting for instructions from our guide. You could feel the concern and enthusiasm in the air, as we waited and watched the leopard shark swim around the perimeter of the tank. She was beautiful in color, black spots with a golden brown background. Some spots were longer in shape than others. Her eyes were small ovals and yet, you could clearly see them.

"Could I have every one's attention for a moment please?" our guide asked. We turned and listened. "It is very important that you follow a few simple rules so that you do not frighten the shark as you reach in to touch her." I could not believe my ears! He was actually telling us that the shark was scared of us! In all my years of being fascinated with sharks, I had never thought of the shark being afraid of us, as humans.

We had always been led to believe that sharks are out to get us, that one drop of blood in the water could send them into a feeding frenzy. Quint, the shark fisherman in Jaws says, "It is a bad fish, this shark. It will swallow you whole.... No tenderizing, down in one gulp you go."

And yet here was our tour guide saying just the opposite. He continued giving us instructions. "Put your hand in the water after the shark's head has passed, so you do not frighten her."
There he said it again. Had we been wrong to just take what the movies, books and media had said about shark's as truth instead of taking time to learn about them and form our own opinions?

As the shark passed by me, I reached in to touch her. I was so amazed at the feel of her. It was like touching a moss-covered rock in a stream or pond, slimy. She also felt very thick, like a finely tuned muscle in a gymnast, powerful and yet graceful at the same time. At that moment, what had started as a fascination for sharks, for me became a true love and passion!

As I waited for the shark to swim back to me, I watched as the other people put their hands in the water. They hadn't paid attention to what our guide had said. They were putting their hands in the water in front of shark's head and pulling on her tail.

She became very frightened and agitated. The shark started swimming tight circles in the middle of the tank, away from every one. You could see the fear in her small eyes; she was scared of the hands. I tried to imagine what she was feeling; all of these fingers coming at her at once, no matter which way she swam.

Her reaction was not that of a bloodthirsty monster our out to eat humans. It was like that of a young child, lost and looking for help from someone. I became very concerned for the shark and felt a very strong need to shield her from all the people.

"How do you keep the shark's fear and her reaction to it from doing any physical harm to her?" I could not believe that question came out of my mouth. I don't think Cat did either from the look on her face. I have always been very shy and not one to speak out in a group of strangers, and yet here i was asking this question.

"We rotate the shark we have in the tank every 3 days with a different one." Our guide replied. Cat leaned over and whispered to me, "You didn't need to attack the guy when you asked the question."

I hadn't meant for it to come out that way. I had felt this overwhelming need to protect the shark. I learned something very important that day from the leopard shark. She had taught me that her species are not the cold-blooded killers out for human flesh, but are instead, unique creatures that need our help and understanding. I learned this lesson, because I took the time and opportunity to learn about them; instead of just accepting what I read or see about them as fact,

Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws said "With all the knowledge accumulated about the great white in the pas 25 years, I couldn't possibly write Jaws today.... Not in good conscience anyway." He also started to campaign for the conservation of sharks before he died.

If the man who wrote the novel that added to myth that shark's are mindless, monsters, can take the time to learn and change his preconceived ideas about sharks, then we all can. It is up to every one of us to take the time to learn about sharks. They depend on us. Are you willing to put forth the effort to learn?

Remember.........Extinction is forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Struggle Under The Sea

Off the Island of Hawaii, a 7 foot tiger shark fights to stay alive, while trapped in a net struggling for each breath it takes, to keep the water pumping over it's gills. The shark wanting nothing more than to free it's self and swim away.

For most people, this poor creature's plight wouldn't matter. In fact, they would say good. It's nothing but a man eating shark. What's one more dead shark going to hurt. They keep us from swimming in "our" ocean and when we step in it, they bite us.

A Hawaiian lifeguard saw things differently. He felt for this helpless fish left to die a slow death in a man-made net. He didn't want this shark to die for no reason. He swam down to where the creature was struggling and cut the shark free. The shark swam away off into the ocean.

The shark won the battle with man this time. Unfortunately, it won't be it's last encounter with humans, next time the shark might not be so lucky.

The lifeguard did a good thing, but the people on the island didn't see it that way. They were upset that he didn't just let the shark die. We NEED more people like the lifeguard, who see a creature in need of assistance, with out thinking twice about what kind of animal it is, and helps because the help is needed. We all have an obligation to be good stewards of the earth.

Remember....... Extinciton Is Forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!