Sea Horse Catch Brings Perspective on Gulf

Crystal Beach, TX—When nine-year-old Reese Dearing noticed something floating in the water at the Sandy Shores edition at Crystal Beach, TX. he thought it was a small clump of sargassum (seaweed).

He simply followed childhood curiosity and picked it up.

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What he found however blew his mind and this wildlife journalist’s as well.

Instead of seaweed, it was a tiny seahorse, an adult dwarf seahorse to be exact, a creature he (and I) have never seen alive in the wild.

He brought the tiny creature up to show his parents who quickly shot these photos and video clips and put the intricate little creature back into the sandy green waters of the Gulf to live a full life.

I learned of the discovery gassing up for a shark fishing trip as his mother Dana proudly showed me the images. Reese beamed with pride at his unique discovery.

This event reminded me of times spent beach combing with my parents searching out shells and sand dollars.

There was something beautiful about those times and there is something beautiful about Reese’s discovery.

For his entire life he will now view the Gulf of Mexico as a place of possibilities. Not only does he now know it is full of common Texas beach finds like hardhead catfish, jellyfish and crabs. But now he nows he most iconic small ocean creature-the seahorse-also dwells there.

I hope it instills in him a deep appreciation for the grand work God did in the Gulf. Seeing the whole family light up when relating the story further strengthened my resolve to write about what I call the “forgotten sea”.

The Gulf of Mexico and all of its wonders get little attention from the corporate wildlife media but encounters like this can do what dozens of television programs cannot.

I appreciate Dana and her husband Brent for allowing me to share these images with you and I especially appreciate Reese being curious enough to explore what he found at the beach.

That’s how a lifelong love and appreciation of the ocean and its inhabitants is born.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

BS On The Bull Shark!

I call BS on the bull shark!

Yes, exactly what you think that means.

Well, it’s not the shark I have a problem with. It is how the corporate wildlife media has covered it in recent years that irks me.

Numerous most dangerous shark lists and television programs have named the bull shark as the top aquatic terror.

Yes, bull sharks are high on the International Shark File (ISAF) attack list with 73 nonfatal and 27 fatal attacks. Yes, they have extremely high levels of testosterone. And yes, they can be found commonly on popular beaches and even far into river systems as they do just fine in fresh water.

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Bull Shark (Photo Courtesy NOAA)

It is the combination of those factors that put the bull shark high on the dangerous list but that is not what the public hears.

They hear “most dangerous shark” and assume that if a tiger shark, a great white and a bull shark swims by them, the bull shark would be the most likely to attack.

Well, for starters that is not even true in terms of just raw attack numbers.

The tiger shark’s nonfatal attacks are at 80 and they have 31 fatal attacks (total 111). The great white has 234 nonfatal attacks and 80 fatal attacks with a total 314. Just looking at these numbers alone you can see the bull shark is not the most dangerous shark.

Then you consider the logic of putting the bull shark at the top (its abundance in nearshore coastal waters, wide distribution, freshwater ability) actually paints a different picture when turned around.

Bull sharks are far more abundant than great whites and tiger sharks. Far more!

There is no comparison in their abundance especially in populated areas with great whites in particular having a limited range in warmer waters with more swimmers.

Looking at these numbers does anyone think that a shark (great white) that has 314 “verified” attacks and that has its largest abundance in relatively isolated areas in comparison to bulls would not do far more attacking if the population roles were reversed? Ditto for tigers.

I have no doubt there would be double the attacks for both species if they were as abundant as bulls on the Gulf, Atlantic and Caribbean Coasts.

I put “verified” in quotes because of something ISAF has said themselves.

 This list must be used with caution because attacks involving easily identified species, such as white, tiger, sandtiger, hammerhead and nurse sharks, nearly always identify the attacking species, while cases involving difficult to identify species, such as requiem sharks of the genus Carcharhinus, seldom correctly identify the attacker.

The requiem sharks include the bull shark.

I have written recently that blacktip sharks could likely be the culprit for some bull sharks and current data shows them only behind great white, bull and tiger in total attacks.

ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to those branches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.

Period.

This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull. People have a very hard time identifying sharks.

I am constantly getting emails, social media tags and text messages asking me to identify sharks and most of the time they are a bull shark someone thinks is a blacktip or a blacktip someone thinks is a bull shark. I know this is only anecdotal evidence but in my opinion it speaks volumes.

The photo you see below is the one I use the top of this site. It is a large blacktip shark I caught and released near Venice, La. in 2012. Numerous people have commented on it being a bull shark.

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Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water. Could spinners even be responsible for some alleged bull shark attacks?

I reiterate the public hears or sees “most dangerous shark” and assume that if a tiger shark, a great white and a bull shark swam by the bull shark would be the most likely to attack.

That is just not true. At best it is up to debate.

I am not trying to say the bull shark is a sweetheart. I was circled by one twice while wade fishing the Chandeleur Islands in 1997 and had to make my way to shore. I have also tagged and released a number of these amazing creatures up to six feet long. I have bull shark experience.

I also have great white, blacktip and spinner experience and while I have never dealt with tiger sharks all I really need is statistics to make this case anyway.

The reason for this article is not to make the great white or tiger shark look bad. I don’t want any shark to look bad!

It is to make us reexamine the bull shark.

For an intense podcast on this topic click the link below.

They are a very commonly caught shark in the sport fishery and while the fishing community does wonderful conservation work and there is a growing ethic toward catch and release of all sharks, not everyone has gotten the memo.

An uninformed angler who has just seen a program on the “most dangerous shark”and happens to catch an eight footer on a busy beach or in a bay commonly used by wade fishermen and snorkelers might think he or she is doing the public a favor by killing the shark.

Hopefully many anglers will see this article and then can make an informed decision on what to do.

In reality, killing more bull sharks does the ecosystem a disservice by taking out one of its apex predators.

There are no “bad” sharks. There are just sharks.

Sometimes they hurt people and we have to find creative ways to make shark attacks even less common. I love sharks but people come first. I get that.

It’s interesting that many believe the New Jersey attacks that inspired “Jaws” were actually committed by bull sharks. We will never know for sure but now roles have been reversed and the bull shark has been declared public enemy #1.

And it simply does not deserve that title.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

Texas: 8 Foot Bull Shark Tag & Release (Video)-Sabine-Bolivar Peninsula Area

Shark Week?

How about Shark Life?

That’s what it feels like during the summer when Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials run longlines in the nearshore Gulf to tag and monitor sharks.

Today TPWD’s Derek York messaged me from offshore with these clips and photos showing an eight foot long, 383-pound male bull shark caught, tagged and release 30 miles west of the Sabine Jetties. That’s somewhere along the Bolivar Peninsula.

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The huge bull shark is sitting calmly (at least by bull shark standards) on a specially designed platform on the TPWD vessel. (Photo courtesy Derek York/TPWD)
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That’s a big bull shark folks! (Photo courtesy Derek York/TPWD)

Sharks are an extremely important part of the Gulf ecosystem and many species have suffered major declines due to overfishing from commercial longliners as well as some pressure from the recreational fishery.

Work like TPWD is doing this summer with their tagging will help gain a better understanding of sharks in Texas waters and give them a better idea on how to manage these predators. Shark regulations have changed several times in recent years as new research has come to light.

In the past some have questioned the wisdom of releasing big sharks like this but the fact is they are always at the beach during peak tourist season and there are very few attacks-even from the notorious bull shark.

I am in fact preparing a defense of the bull shark article coming later this week. These photos and the video attached inspired me to speak up for a species that gets little love.

I salute York and all of the TPWD crew out working hard to monitor our shark fishery and I think it’s kind of cool this big boy was caught right in the middle of Shark Week.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page. To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com.)

The Bull Shark That Turned Back And The Shark That Bit Me!

Virtually everyone with an interest in sharks knows the reputation of the bull shark.

Some sources list it as the most dangerous shark on the planet but this wildlife journalist believes that has a lot more to do with abundance around swimmers and fishermen and not all to do with attitude.

While filming a television program in 2002 in the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Biloxi, Miss. I caught a five footer. This was part of a taping for television host Keith Warren’s fishing program.

I thought it would be best if we first photographed the shark from the shore (for a magazine story I as working on), so I hopped overboard waded to the bank with the fish still battling and brought it in.

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The author reeling in the bull shark described in this story in the beautiful Chandeleur Islands in the Gulf of Mexico in 2002.

We filmed the whole thing and then talked a bit about bull sharks and shark conservation.

“Sharks like the bull shark are potentially dangerous to man, but they play a valuable role in nature,” I said.

“Sharks are the apex predator in the Gulf of Mexico, and without them, the entire food chain would be disrupted. I occasionally take sharks to eat, but bulls have super thick hide and I think I will release this one to fight another day.”

At this point, Keith and I walked the big shark back out into the water and he demonstrated the proper technique for reviving a fish by pushing water through its gills. The fish seemed worn out but quickly gained its strength. Keith pushed it out toward the deep, and on camera, we said something about a job well done and started to walk back to shore.

Then something caught my eye: The shark we had released had swam out about 20 yards and then turned around toward us. We were in water over our knees a good 30 yards from the bank. There was no way we were going to outrun the shark, so I prepared to kick it the best I could.

As it got about 10 feet from us, it turned sideways for a second as if it shows its authority, and then turned the other direction. We both breathed a sigh of relief and were glad the camera was still running, because we did not think anyone would believe us. We said something about a close call and wrapped up the shoot.

If you think that was a bit ironic, then check out what happened while tagging sharks near Sabine Pass, TX.

I was out with my friends Bill Killian and Clint Starling. We set up near a rig 10 miles south of the jetties and started catching sharks immediately. A few were blacktips and spinners but most were Atlantic sharpnose, sharks, a species often called “sand shark” that grows to a maximum of around four feet in length.

A huge crew boat that services the oil rigs has the entire Gulf to go around but runs full blast about 50 yards out and throws a massive wave. Our boat near capsized and everything in it went flying including the three-foot Atlantic sharpnose I was in the process of tagging.

When we landed back into position the shark fell on my leg and took hold of my calf. A shark does this thing where it grabs with a bite and then takes a hunk. Luckily before it took, a hunk I knocked it back and looked down to see lots of blood.

Bill and Clint were freaking out but I assured them it would be alright. I asked Bill if he had any alcohol or peroxide and he did not.

I looked down and saw a can of Dr. Pepper so I poured that on the wound, figuring it couldn’t hurt, pulled the bandana off my head and contained the bleeding. Bill was wanting to run it but the fish were still biting. We stayed another couple of hours and caught a whole bunch of sharks.

The shark left me a perfect shark jaw scar and a reminder that sometimes even the creatures you are trying to help are wild and free to prey on us if they so choose.

I never got stitches and to this day (this was 1999) have an obvious scar but that encounter only fueled my interests in sharks that continues to this day.

Chester Moore, Jr.

Has “Mr. Ed” Has Killed More People Than “Jaws”?

With “Shark Week” about to kick off, I thought it was timely to send out a post to give you some information you have to dig really deep to find.

I commend Discovery for their amazing shark coverage but you can only do so much on television in a week. The following information ranges from the esoteric to the criminally underreported.

Horse Vs. Shark

Sounds like a Syfy Original doesn’t it?

In reality I am talking statistics and according to the Centers for Disease Control sharks kill about one person in the United States annually. Horses kill around 20.

That won’t grab too many headlines because too many media figures and wealthy, influential people have horses but it is a fact.

Sharks are easy to sensationalize but in reality Mr. Ed’s kind has killed far more people than “Jaws”and its family in the United States.

Sashimi Specialist

Raw salmon with a splash of soy sauce and a bit of wasabi is one of my favorite food items. Raw salmon is also a favorite of a virtually unknown close cousin of the great white shark-the aptly named salmon shark.

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Salmon shark fitted with a tag. Photo courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service.

This shark dwells the waters of the northern Pacific and is a fairly common catch on Alaskan fishing vessels.

From the article Hot Blooded Predator in Alaska Fish & Wildlife News.

Ferocious fighters and fast swimmers, the salmon shark is a close cousin to the great white shark. The salmon shark, Lamna ditropis, belongs family Lamnidae with four other species: the great white shark, the shortfin and longfin mako sharks, and the salmon shark’s Atlantic counterpart, the porbeagle (or mackerel) shark.

According to The Conservation Institute these sharks are not only warm-blooded but super fast.

Salmon sharks (Lamna ditropis) are large, powerful, warm-bodied (endothermic), and streamlined predators adapted for high-speed swimming. Reports from the U.S. Navy have clocked salmon sharks exceeding 50 knots.

This would make the salmon shark one of the fastest fish in the ocean. They are reported to reach 11.9 feet (3.6 m) in total length (Eschmeyer et al. 1983, Compagno 1984). Most of the salmon sharks encountered in Alaskan waters (the northeastern Pacific) are surprisingly uniform: over 93% are females ranging from 6 1/2 to 8 feet (2 – 2.5 m) in length and roughly 300 pounds (136 kg). Salmon sharks in the 700 pound range have been reported by sport fishermen in Alaska.

These sharks are fascinating creatures that rarely come across swimmers or divers and strike fear only into the hearts of sockeye and chinook.

Underrated Biter

The common blacktip shark is never listed in Internet and television lists of the most dangerous sharks.

Yet as we reported in recent weeks if you look at the raw numbers from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), you will see they should be.

While blacktips were only positively identified in one unprovoked fatality they were responsible for 29 total attacks.

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The author with a huge blacktip shark caught and released off the coast of Venice, La.

That puts only the great white, tiger and bull-the three species everyone recognizes as potentially dangerous above them. We wrote about this last year here but have some new insight.

ISAF has a category for requiem and lamniforems-attacks linked to those branches but not to exact species and those are both higher than the blacktip. But when it comes to identified sharks biting people blacktips rank fourth.

Period.

This is not to implicate the blacktip as a creature to be feared. It is however to question some of the shark attacks identified as bull and to  lesser extent spinner sharks (which have 16 attacks attribute to them.)

Spinner sharks are nearly identical to blacktips and bull sharks and big blacktips can appear similar especially in murky water.

It’s an interesting thing to consider as millions of beachcombers, wade fishermen and divers hit coastal waters.

That’s it for now. Expect much more to come on sharks over the coming two weeks.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)

 

Epic Fail of Corporate Wildlife Media

Corporate wildlife media has failed again.

And again .

And again.

You might be asking “Hey Chester, what is the corporate wildlife media?

It is media outlets owned by publicly traded corporations.

It is the large wildlife nonprofits who by virtue of their budgets and staffing have created a bottleneck in wildlife related information.

It is the large wildlife websites and programs interested in sensationalism instead of stories to initiate clickthroughs.

(Public Domain Photo)

So, how have they failed?

Let’s start with the Asiatic elephant problem.

Currently there are an estimated 400,000 African elephants throughout the continent. That’s a huge drop from at least two million in the 1940s but it is large in comparison to the Asian elephant with a best estimate standing at around 35,000 animals scattered throughout Asia. Think about that.

There are less 1/10 Asian elephants in comparison to African.

Why is little said about Asian elephants?

For starters, big conservation is big bureaucracy and the public’s fascination with the African elephant helps generate funding. Lots of it. The largest threat to Asia’s elephant has been habitat loss with poaching also a factor but showing African elephant carcasses stripped of tusks raises funds.

Showing palm oil plantations and villages taking up space for Asian elephants not so much.

Listen to my intense monologue on the failure of the corporate wildlife media here.

In the April 24th entry I quoted a story that came out of Myanmar showing there is a growing market for Asiatic elephant skins and now bulls, cows and babies are being slaughtered.

Just before making this very post I did a google search for “elephant poaching”.

I finally found a story FIVE pages back on the Myanmar situation with every other story dating back several years in the NEWS section about African elephant poaching.

An even bigger failure is the sad story of the vaquita porpoise I reported on here last year in several entries.

There are only 30 vaquitas left.

30!

If Japanese whaling vessels start pounding on humpbacks the fundraising nonprofits will send out their letters and the social media will be abuzz.

But the vaquita is likely about to be extinct and you see almost nothing on it.

Why?

Harpooned whales and blood-stained seas raise funds and generate web traffic. They don’t think small propoises no one has heard about tangled in nets will do the same.

Slaughtered whales are more sensational than netted porpoises. (Public Domain Photo)

I think it would.

I think you and the wildlife loving public are smarter than that but in my opinion the gatekeepers in much of the corporate wildlife media think you’re not.

They think you need sensationalism when I think you need real stories.

That is what I try to do here.

I probably fail as well since this is a one man operation and things slip under the radar but I do put my heart and soul out there and say things I promise gain me no political favor on any side of the conservation aisle.

If you love wildlife and believe in conserving it do your best to stay tuned to independent researchers, small conservation groups and bloggers like myself in addition to the big outlets.

Not everything they do is bad but they miss way too much. And sometimes its on purpose.

It’s time all species in danger of extinction get attention, not just the chosen ones.

Chester Moore, Jr.

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)

Death Of The Last American Jaguar

Only three jaguars were verified to live within the United States according to the latest scientific research. One of those three male jaguar named Yo’oko was just verified killed by a poacher.

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According to an article at LiveScience.com the rosette patterns on a jaguar’s pelt are unique to each individual, a trait that allowed officials with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify Yo’oko’s pelt in a photo sent to them from the Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project.

(Listen to my emergency radio transmission on the last American jaguar at the link below. This is a must listen!)

It’s unclear when Yo’oko died or who killed him, but the Arizona Daily Star reported today (June 28) that he may have been killed by a mountain lion hunter. A local rancher, Carlos Robles Elias, told the Arizona Daily Star that he heard from a friend that the jaguar was trapped and killed six months ago somewhere in Sonora, Mexico, near the U.S. border.

And while this jaguar and two others have been known to move into and out of the United States, no one knows where the other two are and how much time they actually spend on the US side of the border.

Virtually all of the jaguars verified in the United States in the last decade are believed to move in and out of Mexico.

This could literally mean the last jaguar in America is dead.

This particular incident means a lot more than the media is stating which is why I issued an emergency broadcast of The Wildlife Journalist® radio.

You can click the link above to the listen the podcast and learn exactly how symoblic and tragic this patricular incident is in the realm of the big cat of the Americas. Action needs to be taken and I believe great things can come out of this tragedy if people wake up.

Chester Moore, Jr. 

(To contact Chester Moore e-mail chester@chestermoore.com. To subscribe to this blog enter your email address in the box on the top right of this page.)