I suppose it was only a matter of time. I’ve waited until more information was available before writing anything about this, but it looks like the first confirmed Massachusetts white shark attack since 1936 has occurred at Ballston Beach on Cape Cod. The victim, Christopher Myers, was swimming out past the breakers with his son when a dark dorsal fin was spotted near him and a shark seized his leg. Fortunately, Chris’ injuries were relatively minor and he is apparently in good health and spirits. Now that this has happened, what’s next for New England’s white sharks and the swimmers that share the water?
My summer-long (likely into a little bit of autumn) quest to find sharks in the Pamlico Sound took me to the waters of the Neuse River this past Thursday. I’ve been out on the Neuse looking for sharks on a coupleoccasions before, and it was time to see if my gear and a few new techniques could find some sharks where we hadn’t before. We had the longline and gillnet both available and were fishing an afternoon/evening set to see if we could hit the twilight hours when sharks are at their most active. We also opted to set the gillnet first, set and haul the longline while watching the gillnet like a hawk (in case something big hit it that needed a quick release) and then haul the net, which gave us a longer soak time for the gillnet. Did these new ideas help us find any sharks in the estuary?
Tuesday saw Evan, Andrea, and I head back to the Pamlico River to cover it with the longline (you can see why it was missing last time here) in my brave/foolish attempt to see if there are any sharks in the Pamlico Sound. Weather-wise, we had a completely opposite experience from our previous trips out. But the important thing is: did we catch anything? Read on to find out.
I haven’t written about New England great whites here in a while, though I do chime in about new sightings and info on Twitter. However, it looks like the sharks of the East Coast are attracting attention from more than just me. It looks like the show “Shark Wranglers” will be focusing on the white sharks of Cape Cod next season. Going by precedent set in other waters where the Shark Wranglers have fished, their trip to Massachusetts may not be without controversy.
White shark being wrangled. Image from natgeotv.com.
It’s getting to be that time of year again. Shark Week, the seven-day Super Bowl for shark nerds and casual viewers alike, is celebrating its 25th year this summer. This year it runs a little later than usual (probably to avoid conflicting with that little thing called the Olympics) which means it coincides with the second half of the ASIH/AES meeting. Since several AES members have actually made appearances on Shark Week, I can only imagine there will be some sort of quasi-organized viewing going on. Here’s what this year’s promo looks like:
It’s very professionally-done, and though it plays up the fear factor a bit I don’t see anything too offensive here (unlike in 2009, where the promos actually just showed people being eaten). Last year marked an improvement over some of the other recent “shark porn”-heavy seasons, but was not without its flaws. How does this year’s lineup look?
Some field days just don’t go well. This past Thursday I went out with Evan and Jeff to do a little opportunistic shark sampling in the Pamlico River while they were out collecting water samples for a striped bass project. What actually happened was quite possibly the worst field day I have ever had, and I’ve been doing this marine biology/fisheries science thing long enough to have had a few rough field days. There was my first major research cruise, during which I puked for an entire day, and there was also the consistently inconsistent (but always pretty bad) weather during the first leg of our Cape Cod sampling last summer. This trip trumps them both, and at least partially, I only have myself to blame. When I decided a series of “warts and all” posts on my summer field work was a good idea, I had no idea how many warts there would be. At the very least this should be funny to you, dear reader.
Field work season has officially begun. On Wednesday and Thursday I set out for Hatteras and Ocracoke with labmate Evan and his brother Austin to test the gear, get an idea of how much sampling can happen in a day, and maybe even catch some sharks. This area was chosen because it likely has the most potentially difficult sampling conditions in the entire survey and also the best chance to catch some actual sharks, which would allow me to troubleshoot the gear and methods. Little did I know just how much troubleshooting would occur.
As mentioned earlier, this summer I’ll be starting the first of several shark-related projects that should (hopefully) add up to my dissertation. The first is a summer pilot study that aims to find shark hot spots in Pamlico Sound. Tomorrow, before the crack of dawn, field work officially begins. I’ll be titling posts about field work “Summer of the Shark,” because that’s certainly what my summer has been so far and will become even more so in the next couple months. Since I won’t have any pretty pictures of sharks until I get back on Thursday, enjoy this rundown of the gear I’ll be using.
By now it’s somewhat old news that a recent study by Gavin Naylor and other researchers from all over (freely available here) has revealed that there may be up to 79 previously undiscovered shark and ray species, which complicates conservation and fisheries management considerably. This absolutely epic, 250-page paper took genetic samples from 574 elasmobranch species worldwide in an effort to determine just how localized some wide-ranging species can be. As mentioned before, potentially 79 “new” species have been uncovered by this effort, mostly resulting from genetic variation between regions. However, some other discoveries are a little more complex, and therefore a little more interesting. For a general overview of the methods and implications for conservation, check out Dave’s post and Week 3 of Blue Pints over at the parent blog. I’ll be covering a few of the species-specific results, focusing on some sharks (and one ray) that are important to fisheries and conservation in the U.S. east coast.
I’m looking forward to hanging out with my fellow shark people and seeing what they’re all up to, but I’m extra excited because I get to go to Canada. Not just Canada, but one of the most naturally-beautiful parts of the North American continent. I’ve had a fondness for our neighbors to the north ever since spending my high school years in Vermont, where the stations broadcasting from Canada were playing the better music (Limp Bizkit was topping the charts in America at the time, kids). Since I count several Canadians, former Canadians, and people who have generally spent time in Vancouver as friends and regular readers, I’d like to enlist your help in the comments section with any recommendations for my “Vancouver bucket list” of things I should/need to do while I’m up there. Intriguing and/or entertaining suggestions will be added to the list below the jump, so keep checking in to see if it grows.