Tag Archives: great white shark

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.

Salmon_shark_nmfs
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.

chester shark 2.jpg
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.)

 

Great Whites of the Gulf

The eyes.

Coal black.

Intense.

Ominous.

There is something powerful about the eyes of a great white shark.

In the 1975 blockbuster “Jaws”, obsessed shark hunter Capt. Quint describes them as “lifeless eyes…black eyes…like a doll’s eyes”.

As an 18 footer turned its eye to look at me while on a cage diving expedition to the Farallon Islands I quickly disagreed with Quint. Black they were but lifeless the sharks’ eyes were not.

They were filled with purpose. To kill. To eat. To survive.

Long believed extinct in the Gulf of Mexico or at least an extremely rare visitor, it seems there are survivors.

In 2014, “Katharine” and “Betsy”, two young great whites were verified in Gulf waters.

Public Domain Photo

Both of these sharks were fitted with SPOT transmitters by research/conservation group OCEARCH. These tags communicate with satellites and when the information from those tags if fed back to OCEARCH, it allows the public to view their movements at OCEARCH.org.

When, Katharine, all 2300 pounds of her, staked out the stretch of coastline off of Panama City Beach, Fla., people paid attention. More than four million logged onto the OCEARCH website, crashing the server the week and causing a media firestorm.

“Those two sharks, Katharine in particular, drew an enormous amount of attention to great white sharks in a very positive way and the interactive nature of the site, gave people a way to see great white movements take place in a way never before possible,” said OCEARCH founder Chris Fischer.

“We are solving the life history puzzle of ‘Jaws’ out of the Cape Cod area for the first time in history and it has been interesting to see unfold.”

Cape Cod is one thing but the Gulf of Mexico? That’s the domain of bull sharks and black tips, not great whites. Right?

Wrong.

Great white populations are on the rise due to 20 plus years of gill nets being banned along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. These nets caught and killed many juvenile great whites that are born on the East Coast and migrate into the Gulf to feed.

The shallow, nearshore areas along the eastern seaboard and portions of the Gulf Coast, especially Florida are “nursery” areas where the younger sharks spend their time. Both Katharine and Betsy were tagged off of Cape Cod in August 2013 and covered thousands of miles of water before entering the Gulf.

In 2005 I wrote an article called “Jaws in the Gulf” for Tide magazine recalling historical references and at the time a recent sighting. The article was a bit controversial as great whites in the Gulf seemed too magnificent to believe.

Now it has been vindicated. But that’s not the point. Seeking out the mysterious is a big part of what we do.

The point is the most iconic shark in the planet is proven to inhabit the Gulf and could be on the rise. Fishermen and conservationists need to know so these great predators can be protected.

NOAA has some extremely interesting older data on great whites in the Gulf of Mexico. Their earliest recorded white shark was off the coast of Sarasota, Fla on a set line in the winter of 1937. Another specimen was caught in the same area in 1943.

In February 1965, a female was captured in a net intended for bottlenose dolphins at Mullet Key near St. Petersburg. In addition, National Marine Fisheries Service officials reported 35 great whites as bycatch in the Japanese longline fishery in the Gulf from 1979 through 1982.

Those sharks died but last year the first great white ever known to be caught from the surf was taken by an angler in Panama City Beach, Fla.

Instead of killing it, he fitted it with a tag, photographed and released it.

Knowing about great whites, their rarity and conservation problems is crucial so great whites meet happy endings when encountered by anglers-the user group most likely to see them.

It might seem counterintuitive to save something that can and occasionally does eat humans. But the fact is we need things like great white sharks to keep us humble, to remind us, we are vulnerable and to keep us in a sense of wonder.

That was the state I was in gazing out onto the Gulf of Mexico while fishing the 61st St. Pier in Galveston, TX with my Dad at age 12.

“It’s a shame we don’t have a lot of great whites off our coast,” I told him.

“Maybe we do. We just haven’ found them yet,” Dad replied.

Dad is gone now and I sure would like to tell him, they have been found. Great whites dwell the Gulf of Mexico and you never know. There might have been one cruising the surf just beyond that pier on that night so long ago.

It is entirely possible.

 Chester Moore, Jr.