Mozambique reef sharks, new research


This video says about itself:

23 May 2014

In this new Shark Academy, Jonathan Bird explores the Gray Reef Shark, a small feisty shark that is one of the most common in the tropical Pacific. It’s also the species most well known for agonistic displays.

From Wildlife Extra:

New tagging scheme in Mozambique to study endangered grey reef sharks

Grey reef sharks appear to congregate around Vamizi Island to reproduce

Vamizi Island in Mozambique is launching a shark-tagging project to learn more about grey reef sharks.

This endangered species on the IUCN Red List is often seen on Vamizi’s reefs and is an important indicator of the health of the marine ecosystem.

In September 2014, a group of scientists will travel to Vamizi to assist freediving world record holder and IUCN Oceans Ambassador, William Winram, as he dives to fit satellite tags to 10 sharks.

Photographer and film-maker Mattias Klum will capture footage of the event to feature in a film he is producing on the marine eco-system that surrounds Vamizi.

In October, a further 20 sharks will be fitted with acoustic tags by marine scientists. The object of the project is to understand the sharks’ movements and breeding habits, providing invaluable information in the bid to protect them.

The grey reef shark tagging project is one of the first initiatives to be launched under a new partnership between Vamizi and the IUCN.

Large aggregations of up to 30 grey reef sharks have been witnessed between July and November at sites such as the Neptune’s Arm dive site.

All the sharks are mature females, suggesting that these aggregations may have something to do with reproduction.

This Vamizi aggregation is one of the very few known along the East Africa Coast, where shark populations are severely threatened.

By collecting data from tags fitted, the Vamizi-IUCN team will begin gathering the knowledge about their patterns of behaviour, feeding and reproduction that is needed to develop a strategy to protect them.

Known as the Vamizi ‘Big Five’ on the island, the grey reef shark, green turtle, giant grouper, bumphead parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse, all feature on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species, and take refuge in Vamizi’s waters to feed and reproduce.

From early 2015, the project will be rolled out across several more of the most endangered species, including the populations of marine … hawksbill turtles that are frequent visitors to Vamizi’s reefs.

New Zealand great white shark research


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Great white shark, Pip

In the second of our series on New Zealand great whites we’re introducing you to Pip. She’s a recent addition to our tagging programme and is a decent size at 3.3 metres long.

From Wildlife Extra:

Great white shark project reveals surprising facts to NZ researchers

A 10-year project to find out more about the great white sharks that inhabit New Zealand waters is coming to an end as scientists tackle the final phases of data analysis.

The project was run jointly by the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the NZ Department of Conservation project to fisheries scientist and shark expert Dr Malcolm Francis is one of several scientists who have spent the past decade tagging great whites – a protected species – and following their movements.

Dr Francis said the initial aims of the project were to find out how mobile the sharks were, how far they travelled and where to, and their habitat requirements.

The tagging programme involved the use of acoustic tags, determining how the sharks use their habitat near seal colonies, pop-up tags that gather data on light, depth and temperature, and electronic tags attached to a shark’s dorsal fin to track their movements.

Since 2005, the team has tagged 95 sharks, mainly at the Chatham Islands and Stewart Island and have made some surprising discoveries.

“We found that most migrate to the tropics during winter,” he said. “The first one or two we saw do this came as a real surprise. They go between May and July and return between December and March, spending more time out of New Zealand waters than in.”

A 3.3m-long great white named Pip by the researchers, arrived in New South Wales near Sydney, with tracking data showing she took 20 days to travel 2,020km from the southern Snares Shelf. She has since moved steadily northwards, and recently entered Queensland waters.

By comparison, great white sharks that live around the southern Australian coast travel mainly up the east or west coasts, but do not often venture into the open ocean.

The New Zealand tagging also showed that the sharks travel in a remarkably straight line on their migrations, averaging about 5km/h or 100km/day, but have done up to 150km a day.

In the afternoons they tend to spend time at the surface but also make regular dives between 200 and 800m – the record depth is 1,246m.

“We don’t know why they’re doing that,” said Francis. “We assume they’re feeding. We also don’t know how they navigate in a straight line or why. It’s a big puzzle and not one we are likely to work out.

“While we’ve found out some answers to some questions, our work has also raised a series of other questions. We’ve found out about the large scale, and where and when they hang out around northern Stewart Island, but not what they do close to mainland New Zealand.

Clinton Duffy, shark scientist with the Department of Conservation, said, “We confirmed that juveniles inhabit shallow coastal waters and harbours around New Zealand, feeding mainly on fish.

“Once they grow to about 3m long, the sharks begin to feed on marine mammals. They continue to feed on fish or squid but they tend to aggregate near seal colonies, so there are large behaviour changes.”

The information gathered on the distribution of sharks will now be compared with the distribution of commercial fishing to figure out where and when the sharks are at greatest risk of being inadvertently caught by fishing gear.

See Warwick Lyon, a marine biologist on the project, talking about two of the sharks they have been monitoring, Pip and Scarface, in the videos.

This video says about itself:

Great white shark, Scarface

Meet Scarface, a great white we have been monitoring for a couple of years. He’s a bit of a character, inquisitive and a little aggressive. Watch the video to find out how Scarface got his name.

Tagging starry smoothhound sharks in Dutch Zeeland


Starry smoothhound sharks

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Fishermen count sharks in Zeeland

Wednesday Aug 13 2014, 08:56 (Update: 13-08-14, 09:46)

Eleven charter boats and three hundred anglers will go counting sharks for research institute Imares the next three days off the coast of Zeeland. The starry smooth hound shark is increasingly seen in the North Sea.

Overfishing made the North Sea emptier for a long time and it seemed to be not a good environment for the shark. The number of starry smoothhound sharks meanwhile appears to increase again. To see how many there are, they are counted now.

Tags

From the Neeltje Jans concrete harbour in the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier the boats depart towards the sea. Then, there will be fishing for the sharks. They will get a plastic label in their fins and will be weighed, measured and monitored to determine species and sex. Then, they will go back into the sea.

Skipper Hank Parree participates for the third time in the count, which is held in the Netherlands since 2011 and has provided more than 2000 fish with tags. “The sharks are about 1.20 meters and have no teeth but a kind of sandpaper-like tooth plates. But they are real sharks,” he explained to the NOS Radio 1 News.

Unknown

The starry smoothhound shark is seen in many places. “They swim in the Bay of Biscay, in Iceland, Scotland and Brittany. Everywhere they are found,” said Parree. Yet there is little information about the animal. This project should change that. “It’s a big operation, all to protect the sharks better”.

Great white shark research in Mexico, video


This video says about itself:

7 August 2014

In 2013, a team from the Oceanographic Systems Lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution took a specially equipped REMUS “SharkCam” underwater vehicle to Guadalupe Island in Mexico to film great white sharks in the wild. The[y] captured more than they bargained for.

Sharks, forty years after the film Jaws


This video says about itself:

Map of Shark Protection Through Time

7 August 2014

Sharks face many threats from people, including extreme overfishing driven by high prices for their fins, and being caught by mistake in nets and on longlines. While there is still much work to be done to conserve sharks, take a moment to recognize the work already being done in communities around the world to protect these fascinating and beautiful animals.

Video by the Smithsonian Ocean Portal: Amanda Feuerstein, Emily Frost, Nancy Knowlton and Hannah Waters. Special thanks to Sonja Fordham, Kerry Lynn Miller, Jen Sewada, and David Shiffman.

This map is a work in progress. If you know of regulations we’re missing or otherwise want to contribute, email ocean@si.edu

From Smithsonian.com in the USA today:

The State of Sharks, 40 Years After Jaws

We could be at a tipping point for conserving the infamous predators, if we can keep up shark-friendly practices

By Nancy Knowlton, Wendy Benchley

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Jaws the book, and next year will be the 40th anniversary of Jaws the movie. It was Peter Benchley’s first novel, and the film, directed by then 27-year-old Steven Spielberg, was the first summer blockbuster.

In the public’s mind, the fear of sharks that Jaws initially inspired was soon replaced by fascination, which continues to this day.  Sadly, that fascination has been joined with despair over the last several decades, as evidence has accumulated that shark populations are plummeting, driven by overfishing.  Peter Benchley often stated in later years that he could never again write a book like Jaws, and he devoted much of his post-Jaws career to ocean conservation.

How did sharks get into such trouble in the first place? Sharks and their relatives have been around for more than 400 million years and survived four mass extinctions. Yet they are surprisingly vulnerable to human fishing because, like many long-lived organisms, they reproduce slowly. Great white sharks, for example, may live to be 70 years old or more. Spotty data suggest that females produce on average five baby great whites at a time but give birth perhaps only every other year, starting at about 15 years of age.

So it is no surprise that shark populations have not been able to keep up with losses caused by a worldwide hunting frenzy. Demand for shark fins, often served in Asia as shark fin soup for wedding banquets, New Year’s festivities and government functions, skyrocketed for decades, leading to estimates of 100 million sharks being killed every year.  This translated to a loss of about 6 to 8 percent of all sharks annually, a rate that cannot be sustained by populations that typically only increase by about 5 percent a year.

Yet lately, after years of shark doom and gloom, some good news has started to appear.  How did the situation start to turn around? You can chalk it up to better fishery management, falling demand for shark fins and rising appreciation for live sharks.

Rules and policies designed to protect sharks include shark sanctuaries, banning of shark finning (the taking of just the valuable fins and discarding the often still-living shark), prohibitions on selling and shipping of shark products and changes in fishing gear that reduce the likelihood of sharks being caught by mistake. Thanks to growing public disgust with the practice of finning and awareness of catastrophic drops in shark numbers, demand for shark fin soup is declining in Asia (as are shark fin prices). The Chinese government recently banned the serving of shark fin soup at official functions, a number of large hotels have taken shark fin soup off the menu and a growing list of airlines are refusing to transport shark fins.

In places where tourism is critical to the local economy, the realization that sharks are much more valuable alive than dead has also prompted legal protection. More than 30 percent of the Maldives’ economy is based on shark eco-tourism, and in Palau it was estimated that a shark that brings in $108 dead is worth $1.9 million alive over its lifetime. As a recent headline in the New York Times noted in a story about shark tourism on Cape Cod (not far from where most of Jaws was filmed): “They’re Going to Need a Bigger Gift Shop.”

Most importantly, bit-by-bit, scientists have been finding evidence that shark numbers in some areas are slowly rebounding.  A report this year suggested that numbers of great white sharks seem to be increasing along the east coast of the United States, and similar trends have been reported from California, South Africa and Australia.  Notably, these are all places where harvest of these sharks has been prohibited since the 1990s. Such developments inspire cautious optimism: we could be at a shark conservation tipping point.

Of course, there is still plenty of cause for concern and much work to be done. Some scientists dispute the more optimistic numbers, not all laws are well enforced and no one is arguing for a relaxation of global efforts to conserve sharks. Of the 476 species of sharks analyzed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for extinction risk, good data are only available for 276, and of these 123 are considered at risk for extinction.

Still, it is important to celebrate the successes we do have. Around the world, shark-friendly measures are spreading rapidly (see the map above [in the video]), and there is enormous power in the realization that one’s concerns and efforts are part of a larger and growing effort.

Or as Peter Benchley once put it: “I see the sea today from a new perspective, not as an antagonist but as an ally, rife less with menace than with mystery and wonder. And I know I am not alone. Scientists, swimmers, scuba divers, snorkelers, and sailors all are learning that the sea is worthy more of respect and protection than of fear and exploitation.”

Google using super-strong material to protect underwater internet cables against mystery shark attacks: here.