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White Shark Predation | False Bay, South Africa

It’s been a while since the last post, so I’ll break the silence with a video recently uploaded to YouTube by African Shark Eco Charters. This is raw footage and it is not in slow motion. It gives one a sense of the speed at which both shark and seal are moving, and is a nice departure from the sequences that can often seem common. Unfortunately, it’s curtains for the seal. Enjoy.

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The Fox Shark Research Foundation released a video (see below) highlighting the successful deployment of acoustic listening stations in South Australian waters, part of a joint research project with Save Our Seas Foundation to study white shark site fidelity. Known for adventure, research, and education, Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions is the pioneering and premiere dive operation in South Australia. Their experience diving with great white sharks for over 40 years lends great capital to a research effort such as this and represents their continuous commitment to understand and preserve these amazing predators. The following information comes from the SOSF White Shark Site Fidelity project page:

Key Objective:

This project aims to identify key habitats for white sharks in South Australian waters.

Why this is important:

Research on the movement patterns of white sharks have shown that while they travel extensively across their range in Australian waters, they have preferred habitat sites that they may temporarily reside in and regularly re-visit. In South Australia, one such site is the Neptune Islands and unsurprisingly much of our knowledge of white sharks in South Australian waters comes from research based at this site. Defining the locations of other areas of important habitat and the connectivity between them is important for understanding how to effectively protect and recover white shark populations.

Background

Much research has been conducted on white sharks at the Neptune Islands over the last 10 years, incorporating operators log book data, photographic identification, genetic sampling, fine scale movement studies and acoustic and satellite tagging. However, since this data collection has been limited to the Neptune Islands, there is limited understanding as to how such data relates to the behaviour and habitat use of the overall population. This has ramifications for using sites such as the Neptunes for monitoring trends in population size and status. The North Neptune Island group is one of several significant seal colonies in South Australian waters, and is clearly an important habitat to which some white sharks show high degree of site fidelity. But it is not known if these sharks spend periods of residency at other islands, nor how important other seal colonies are sharks that may not visit the Neptune Islands group.

Aims and Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to define other important habitat areas for white sharks and the pathways between them. Specific objectives are to:

  1. Establish the frequency and duration of visitation of sharks tagged at North Neptune Island to other seal colonies.
  2. Determine residence times and site fidelity to these specified sites
  3. Examine the fidelity of sharks tagged at alternative sites to the Neptune Islands
  4. Determine the timing and rates of movement of white sharks between these areas
  5. Test the corridor theory by placing stations at island groups within this corridor
  6. Build on existing knowledge on site fidelity and population dynamics by integrating with the current Australia-wide CSIRO program on white sharks
  7. Provide data to management agencies to enhance protection for the species from commercial fisheries in key habitat areas.

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Here at NFN, we most often license stock footage for television programs, but occasionally it falls into to the hands of marketing creatives charged with a different brand of commercial production. This talking, texting, Australian sea lion happens to be a cute spokeswoman for Optus, a large mobile phone provider in Australia. The underwater footage seen in this commercial was shot last year while on a cage diving trip with Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions. Australian sea lions are the continent’s only endemic sea lion and are both rare and endangered according to the Australian government and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Optus Country Stones: Seal from Resolution Design on Vimeo.

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Today marks the release of the 2011 International Shark Attack File report from the University of Florida. George Burgess, who is Curator of the ISAF and head of the Florida Program for Shark Research, highlights some of the statistics in a short YouTube video accompanying the official press release.

UF report: 2011 shark attacks remain steady, deaths highest since 1993

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shark attacks in the U.S. declined in 2011, but worldwide fatalities reached a two-decade high, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File report released today.

While the U.S. and Florida saw a five-year downturn in the number of reported unprovoked attacks, the 12 fatalities — which all occurred outside the U.S. — may show tourists are venturing to more remote places, said ichthyologist George Burgess, director of the file housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

“We had a number of fatalities in essentially out-of the way places, where there’s not the same quantity and quality of medical attention readily available,” Burgess said. “They also don’t have histories of shark attacks in these regions, so there are not contingency plans in effect like there are in places such as Florida.”

Seventy-five attacks occurred worldwide, close to the decade average, but the number of fatalities doubled compared with 2010. Fatalities occurred in Australia (3), Reunion (2), the Seychelles (2) and South Africa (2), with one each in Costa Rica, Kenya and New Caledonia. The average global fatality rate for the last decade was just under 7 percent, and it rose to 16 percent last year. Excluding the U.S., which had 29 shark attacks but no deaths, the international fatality rate averaged 25 percent in 2011, Burgess said.

“We’ve had a decade-long decline in the number of attacks and a continued decline in the fatality rate in the U.S.,” Burgess said. “But last year’s slight increase in non-U.S. attacks resulted in a higher death rate. One in four people who were attacked outside the U.S. died.”

Florida led the U.S. with 11 of its 29 attacks. Other countries with multiple attacks include Australia (11), South Africa (5), Reunion (4), Indonesia (3) Mexico (3), Russia (3), Seychelles (2) and Brazil (2). While the higher number of fatalities worldwide came as a surprise, the drop in the number of U.S. attacks follows a 10-year decline, Burgess said.

“It’s more than coincidence that we’ve had this drop over this last decade,” Burgess said. “The fact is, that’s a downward trend, and there has to be a cause for that. People might argue there’s less sharks, but since the late 1990s, populations have begun a slow recovery. By contrast, the number of attacks in the United States and Florida suggests there’s been a reduced use of these waters.”

Florida’s attacks historically lead the U.S., and as a high aquatic recreation area, especially for surfers, Volusia County leads the state. In 2011, Volusia County again led the state with six attacks, but it was the lowest since 2004 (3).

“It’s a good news/bad news situation,” Burgess said. “From the U.S. perspective, things have never been better, our attack and fatality rates continue to decline. But if it’s a reflection of the downturn in the economy, it might suggest that other areas have made a real push to get into the tourism market.”

The next step to reducing the number of fatalities is creating emergency plans for these alternative areas in the future, said Burgess, who has been invited to work on developing a response plan in Reunion Island this spring.

“Ironically, in this very foreign environment that has animals and plants that can do us harm, we often don’t seem to exhibit any concern at all, we just jump in,” Burgess said.

Surfers were the most affected group, accounting for about 60 percent of unprovoked attacks, largely due to the provocative nature of the activity. Swimmers experienced 35 percent of attacks, followed by divers, with about 5 percent.

“When you’re inside the water, there’s much less chance of sharks making a mistake because both parties can see each other,” Burgess said. “Surfing involves a lot of swimming, kicking and splashing.”

Despite the number of deaths being higher than other years, people should remember how much of a threat humans are to sharks, Burgess said. With worldwide over-fishing, especially to meet demands for flesh and fins used in shark fin soup, an expensive Asian delicacy, humans pose a greater threat to elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) than sharks do to humans.

“We’re killing 30 to 70 million sharks per year in fisheries — who’s killing who?” Burgess said. “The reality is that the sea is actually a pretty benign environment, or else we’d be measuring injuries in the thousands or millions per year.”

The 2011 Worldwide Shark Attack Summary may be viewed online at www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/isaf.htm.

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Credits

Writer
Danielle Torrent, dtorrent@flmnh.ufl.edu
Source
George Burgess, gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu, 352-392-2360

 

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The following video is a short documentary by the Hong Kong Shark Foundation about the state of shark fin bans in Asia and around the world. For anyone who follows shark conservation issues, this a great visual representation of important decisions made by nations and states in an effort to  protect sharks. You can find additional resources and information on HK Shark Foundation’s website and connect to their social sites from these links:

http://hksharkfoundation.org/

http://www.facebook.com/HKSharkFoundation

https://twitter.com/hksharkfdn

http://www.youtube.com/user/HKSharkFoundation


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