I’ll admit that Popular Mechanics isn’t really a media outlet where I would expect to find an objective piece about sharks, but today, two shark-related articles showed up on their website.
Marine Biologist Debunks Common Misconceptions About Sharks is a Q&A session between Popular Mechanics reporter, Erin McCarthy, and Andy Dehart of the National Aquarium. The session deals with misplaced fears, misconceptions about shark diets, and, of course, the declining numbers of sharks worldwide. One encouraging note is that Dehart says, “that the general public is more and more educated about sharks and shark issues.”
The second article, Survive Anything: How to Escape a Shark Attack, discusses how to avoid and escape a shark attack, as unlikely as one may be. The article does mention that there “are approximately 40 shark attacks” in the waters surrounding the U.S. each year. However, I wish it would have mentioned that percentage of those that are serious or fatal. Even though 40 attacks a year, for the entire U.S. coastal areas is still a relatively minuscule number, I think there are people who see the words “shark attack” and automatically assume a fatal attack. The article does go on to mention that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be involved in a shark attack, though. As for the survival tactics, which are offered by George Buress, Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, they can be broken down into three simple rules…
Be aware of and recognize the signs of aggressive shark behavior. (The article lists hunched back, lowered pectoral fins, erratic swimming, and yawning but fails to mention that these behaviors are not universal to all sharks.)
If you see a shark displaying signs of aggression leave the area “quickly but smoothly” while maintaining visual contact with the shark.
In the rare event that an attack does occur, fight back. (The article mentions the “classic” nose punch as a good defense to buy time to get out of the water.)
All-in-all, the Popular Mechanics articles remain fairly objective and offer up some worthwhile general information to the reader.
The San Diego Union Tribune article, Fisherman releases great white, reports that Jeff Patterson, a client of Conway Bowman of Bluewater Bowman, hooked a small great white shark off La Jolla (San Diego, CA) on July 17, 2009. Bowman estimated the shark to be around 6′ (1.8 meters) in length and 150 lbs (68kg) in weight. The white shark was hooked on a a fly-rod and was brought it within 25 minutes of being hooked. After removing the fly from the white shark’s mouth, both Patterson and Conway patted the shark on the head, and then the shark was released back into its natural environment. Bowman was quoted as saying, “To see a great white shark that close is the pinnacle of my guiding career.” Patterson also caught and released 3 mako sharks and 8 blue sharks over the course of his two-day fishing trip with Bowman.
It’s refreshing to see a news article about a white shark without any references to Jaws, monsters, killers, etc. It’s also refreshing to read about responsible fishermen respecting the sharks that they’ve caught and safely releasing them back to their environment. In fact, upon visiting Bowman Bluewater’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are sponsoring a catch and release mako tournament in which the proceeds of the tournament will go to the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Casting for Recovery. The proceeds donated to the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research will be used for research on Southern California mako sharks.
That’s the question that the Orlando Sentinel is asking in an online poll. To cast a vote and give your opinion on the subject visit the Orlando Sentinel Back Talk poll.
The Orlando Sentinel also featured a brief opinion piece on “Getting over Jaws.” The article mentions possible tougher restrictions on killing certain shark species in Florida and also mentions the shark attack survivors lobbying for a ban on finning.
A recent Independent Online article does a great job of objectively covering a research study on a 4m (13′) female bull (or Zambezi) shark, who was “caught, measured and then released and tracked,” in the estuary of the Breede River, which feeds into St Sebastian Bay at Witsand in South Africa.
Researchers believed the shark to be pregnant and concluded that the estuary could be a “nursery” for the species. The researchers also found that the bull shark “spent a considerable amount of its time investigating both shore and boat anglers up and down the river, as well as cast-netters at the mouth of the estuary, and that it frequently swam into water less than 1.5m deep.”
The article mentions the decline in numbers of the species, including it’s ‘near-threatened’ status on the IUCN Red List. Overall, the article does is quite informative without any sensationalism, and it does a good job of address conservations issues.
Fox News (if you’re politically-inclined to avoid Fox News, fear not, these segments are both generally politic-free) ran a couple of fairly responsible news segments focusing the IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature reporting that one-third of all sharks are threatened with extinction.
According to these segments, the deep-water open-ocean sharks are the most threatened (great white, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, and mako are specifically mentioned in the report). The report identifies over-fishing, inadvertent netting of sharks, and illegal finning as reasons for the decline in shark numbers. Both segments make a point of informing the viewer that without sharks as a top-predator, entire marine ecosystems can die off. Both segments feature Phil Keating reporting from New Smyrna Beach, which seems a bit overplayed, considering that New Smyrna has been dubbed the “Shark Attack Capital of the World.” However, the overall theme of the segments does seem to be headed in the right direction when it comes to informing the audience about the serious threat to shark populations and the effect these losses can have on ocean life, in general. Read more