From Shark News Stories

Stories about sharks in the news.

Woman celebrates 100th birthday with great white shark dive

As part of Georgina Harwood’s 100th birthday celebration, she went on a great white shark dive off Gansbai, South Africa, yesterday. In addition to the shark dive, Harwood also celebrated turning 100 with a skydive two days earlier. Harwood, a great-grandmother, began skydiving when she was 92, but this was her first shark dive.

Her recent skydive was done, in part, to help raise money to buy life-jackets for volunteers at South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute, according to a HuffPost UK article.

If you’d like to donate to Harwood’s life-jacket fundraiser, you can do so here.

Great white shark caught from Florida beach

The catch and release of a young great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off of a Florida beach near Panama City has been making headlines for the past few days. According to a photo on Dark Side Sharker’s Facebook page, fisherman Derrick Keeny landed the shark on March 1, 2015. The male white shark measured 9’8″ and is believed to be the first of its species to be landed from a beach in the Gulf of Mexico. The fisherman tagged the shark as part of the NOAA/NMFS Cooperative Tagging Plan and released it back into the ocean.

While the fishermen involved in the catch seemed to be well-intentioned with the tagging and release of the shark. Some shark researchers and conservationists called into question the legality of bringing the shark up onto the beach and posing for pictures, which is in violation of Florida’s protected species regulations, which specifically prohibit delaying the release of the shark for measurements and photos. It has yet to be reported whether the fishermen involved will be subjected to any legal repercussions.

More images of the event are available of the Dark Side Sharkers Facebook page.

VIDEO: The Australian Museum receives rare goblin shark specimen

The Australian Museum recently received a new intact goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) specimen. The specimen is that of a young male and measures 1.26m in length. The shark was caught off Eden, New South Wales in water that was “several hundred meters deep.” This marks the fourth goblin shark in the museum’s Ichthyology Collection.

The goblin shark is a deep-water species that is rarely encountered by humans. It is known for its rather unconventional appearance, which includes pink skin, a flattened snout, and a jaw that can extend forward to capture prey. Adult goblin sharks are thought to typically reach lengths between 3-4m. Though, a specimen caught Gulf of Mexico in 2000 was estimated to be between 5.4 and 6.2m.

For more information about the recently added goblin shark, check out The Australian Museum’s website.

Study indicates great white sharks grow and mature slowly

great white shark head-on image
A recent study indicates great white sharks growth rates are much slower than previously thought.

Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) grow and reach sexual maturity at much slower rates than previously believed, according to a press release from NOAA Fisheries. A study completed in 2014 and published online last month in the journal of Marine & Freshwater Research used carbon-14 dating and vertebral band pair counts of 81 white shark specimens, collected in the western North Atlantic Ocean, to develop a growth curve for the species. According to the results, female white sharks reach sexual maturity at approximately 33 years of age, while males reach maturity at approximately 26 years. Additionally, the results of the study indicate that the life-span of white sharks could exceed 70 years, which places them among one of the longest living species of fish.

The latest findings on the growth rates and life-span of white sharks provides important information for conservation efforts of the species. Low reproduction rates coupled with slow growth and maturation rates could potentially put the species at greater risk for population decline, since losses in populations are not quickly replaced. Great white sharks are a protected species in U.S. waters and legally must be released live, if captured. However, individual white sharks are sometimes killed as a result of incidental by-catch from commercial fisheries, so it is important that these types of incidents be managed to protect the welfare of white shark populations, as a whole.

For more information, check out NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center press release,

“White Sharks Grow More Slowly and Mature Much Later Than Previously Thought,”

and the Marine and Freshwater Research journal article,

“Age and growth of the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in the western North Atlantic Ocean.”

Stealthy seals sneak past white sharks using subsurface structures

The following was shared with us by shark researcher Michelle Jewell…


Stealthy seals use subsurface structures to sneak by white sharks

Written by Michelle Jewell (@ExpatScientist)

Predators are highly influential in ecosystems because of the many top-down effects they can have. The most obvious and direct way predators influence an ecosystem is by eating and reducing the number of prey animals in the system, but another equally important way is the indirect influence they have on the behaviour of prey animals.

If you have avoided parking on a risky-looking street, taken a different route between classes to avoid a bully, or abandoned a forest hike because of snapping twigs in the distance, you have been indirectly affected by perceived ‘predators’. In the wild, prey animals will also change their behaviour when they perceive that predators are around, and these altered behaviours often influence other species, ultimately shaping the ecosystem.

My research has focused on these same principles of predator/prey interactions in the ocean, and a great place to study oceanic predators and their prey are Cape fur seal colonies in South Africa. Every summer (November), Cape fur seals give birth to thousands of pups, and by winter (April – September) these ‘young-of-the-year’ seals begin to venture off their islands to swim offshore to the fishing grounds with the adults. These young-of-the-years are typically slow, plump from months of a mostly fat milk diet, and – most importantly – naïve. White sharks take advantage of this naivety and aggregate around seal colonies every winter. Young-of-the-year pups are forced to learn how to avoid sharks quickly or suffer some rather permanent consequences. This means that during a full year, every seal colony goes through a period of high white shark presence (winter) and very low to no white shark presence (summer). Therefore, we are able to study how seals act ‘normally’ during the summer when there are no/very few sharks and how they change their behaviour in the winter to avoid white sharks.

Also, there are many different kinds of seal colony islands along the coast, which lets us ask more questions about how seals use their environment to avoid sharks. I conducted my study at the Dyer Island/Geyser Rock system, which is home to ‘Shark Alley’ as well as many shallow reefs, kelp forests, and shipwrecks. About 100km to the east is another seal colony called Seal Island, which is a world-famous spot to see white sharks predate on seals, but this island system lacks the abundant nearby structures/reefs/kelp forests that are present at Geyser Rock. By looking at these two different kinds of islands, we can also examine how structures – or ‘refugia’ – may alter how seals avoid white sharks at Geyser Rock from how seals avoid white sharks at Seal Island.


Research Conducted by Marine Dynamics a Shark Cage Diving Operator in Gansbaai South Africa

Do all of these structures and anti-predatory tactics of Cape fur seals change white shark movements around Geyser Rock? Most definitely! Check out that study and infographic!

For more information, check out the detailed scientific publication in Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology.


Big thanks to Michelle for sharing her research and awesome infographic! For more from Michelle check out her Michelle’s Expat Scientist blog.