Our Last Blog…

shstbranding2015facebookstandard01banner01build01

SharkStuff Announcement: This is our last blog post…on this site! We’re so excited to launch our beautiful new website on our 1st anniversary as a Charity this coming Monday!!!!!

 

SharkStuff started life as a simple blog about Founder Georgia’s PhD work. Since then it has transformed and grown into a legally constituted small charity, with a portfolio of research and education projects. We now reached a point when we’ve outgrown our blog, and are ready to share our fully fledged website with you. You can read about our current and upcoming projects, keep up to date with our events and activities, and use the sharky resources we’re providing.

You will still find us at http://www.sharkstuff.co.uk Thank you to everyone that has joined us on our journey this far,  we look forward to seeing you in the next chapter!

SharkStuff Giveaway!!

promo-giveaway

We’re giving away a free shark ID book and SharkStuff pen!

That’s right – you can get your mitts on these items for free! SharkStuff has so many new and exciting projects and opportunities coming up this year that we want to celebrate. To do so, we’re giving away a copy of An Illustrated Pocket Guide to Sharks of the World, and one of our very own SharkStuff pens.

promo-giveaway

All you have to do is hop over to Facebook, like our page, like and share the post and then comment on it! The winner will be picked this coming Sunday (30th Jan). You’ve got to be in it to win it!

SharkStuff on the Radio!

bbc-radio-solent

We were so excited to be invited to talk about sharks on the radio!

After the fantastic success of our recent Hengistbury Head eggcase hunt and beach clean, we were contacted by BBC Radio Solent and invited to come in for a brief chat about sharks. We were thrilled to be contacted, and Georgia braved an early and chilly start to join Steve Harris in the studio.

“I was so pleased to be given the opportunity to highlight that Dorset is home to a variety of shark species, and the fact that many of those species are at risk of extinction, and need our help” ~ Georgia.

Two common public misconceptions about sharks that we are passionate to change are that we don’t have sharks in the UK (especially in Dorset) and the hyped up notion that sharks are constantly targeting and biting humans at every opportunity.

“We don’t have rogue sharks; there aren’t sharks that decide that they like the taste of humans…”

Georgia talked about these issues, the effect of Jaws, her first shark encounter, and informed the audience that SharkStuff are offering free talks on sharks to schools, universities, clubs, groups and organisations in Dorset; as well as running free eggcase hunts and beach cleans on local beaches.

You can listen to her full interview here between 2:10 and 2:16.

If you would like to book a talk, we’d love to hear from you and if you would like to take part in an eggcase hunt, keep an eye on our Facebook page for event announcements!

First Eggcase Hunt/Beach Clean is a Huge Success!!

Most of our lovely eggcase hunters!

We ran our first public shark and ray eggcase hunt/beach clean at Hengistbury Head on Saturday the 7th of Jan…we did not anticipate how successful it would be!

 

The Dorset coast is a fantastic place to find shark and ray eggcases, and what better way to get the public involved with our local species than to run an eggcase hunt! We ran our event on the beach adjacent to the beautiful Hengistbury Head nature reserve, where we were in for a real treat.

p1070456
Gorgeous Hengistbury Head beach, complete with some of our participants!

We were delighted when members of the public first started turning up, and it soon became obvious that it was going to be a popular session! It was especially great to have so many families arrive to enjoy the hunt together. After a warm greeting and health and safety briefing by Chris, Georgia gave a quick overview of the eggs that might be found and handed out ID guides made by the Shark Trust. Everyone was provided with litter picking equipment, and it was off to the beach!

p1070458
Our adorable little dogfish Lola was our mascot for the day, helping people to recognise us and generally being awesome.

It took a whopping two minutes before the first eggs were found, much to the delight of everybody, and they just kept on coming! Everybody managed to find eggcases and it was such a pleasure to see how thrilled they were, and to help them to ID each species that they came from. We were very pleased that some of the students that Georgia has recently given a talk to at Bournemouth University came along to help out and hone their ID skills, and we were especially grateful of the assistance from Jess from The Sea Hippy.

p1070529
Students from Bournemouth University honing their eggcase ID skills! Georgia recently gave their class a talk on sharks. If you would like to book a talk, for a university, school, or group, just drop us a line at info@sharkstuff.co.uk

After a thorough search of a long stretch of beach, it was back to the meeting point to dispose of the rubbish (very kindly picked up by the Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre) and count up our eggs!

p1070532
We cleared a fair amount of rubbish!
p1070533
Most of our lovely eggcase hunters!

We were over the moon to find out that we had collected an impressive 89 eggcases, from at least four different species!!

 

p1070534
What a haul!!

All of the data from the day have been uploaded to the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt portal – if you find eggcases on your beach, do the same!! The records will be used to map and better understand the distribution of sharks and rays around our coast, which will help to protect those species who need it.

We’ll be running another eggcase hunt in Dorset soon, like and follow our Facebook page for updates!

 

SharkStuff in 2016 – What a Year!

sharkstuff-at-sharkfest

2016 has been as incredible year for SharkStuff, and not least because we officially become a Small Charity! Here’s a whistle-stop tour in pictures of some of our achievements and activities.

 

We were delighted to attend the very first national UK shark festival – SharkFest. Hosted by Fin Fighters in Bristol, the day was jam packed with over 40 stalls from organisations around the world, and visitors from across the UK and Europe! We loved talking to the public about Dorset’s sharks and rays.

sharkstuff-at-sharkfest

We got some lovely educational and promotional materials made by some equally lovely people.

shark-stuff_09_pr
Our beautiful Dorset Dorsals poster, designed by Martin Willis martin@martinwillis.com

 

shstbranding2015facebookstandard01banner01build01
Our stunning banner design by EDNA designs was made into an actual banner for events!

 

We built our first Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) unit, and deployed it across a range of locations along the Dorset coast in search of sharks and rays.

bruv-pre-deployment

black-sea-bream
A lovely black sea bream caught on film by our BRUV in Studland Bay! We’ll be scaling up our BRUV surveys in 2017.

 

We’ve loved building a relationship with Dorset Wildlife Trust and had an absolutely cracking time surveying for sharks with them, onboard Swanage Sea Fishing‘s San Gina II. We caught and measured several tope, including this beautiful female!

mama-tope
Gorgeous female tope shark.

 

We welcomed onboard Trustee and Treasurer, Andrew Roberts and were delighted to add Alexis Drayson to the Social Media team.

andrew-roberts-treasurer
Our new Treasurer, Andrew Roberts.
alexis
Welcome onboard Alexis Drayson!

Our eggcase hunts have continued with some great findings, all uploaded to the Shark Trusts Great Eggcase Hunt portal.

blackmouth-catshark-eggs-biarritz_logo
Rare find of blackmouth catshark eggs in Biarritz, France.
blonde-ray
Lovely big blonde ray eggcase from Sandbanks beach, Poole, Dorset.
small-eyed-ray
Small eyed ray eggcase from Sandbanks.
img_1264
A bushel of small spotted catshark eggs from Sandbanks!

 

img_1260
A bouquet of undulate ray egg cases from Sandbanks.

 

two-generations
Co-Founder and Secretary Chris Jones with our dogfish Lola and Daisy, and our long time supporter (and Chris’s Mum!) Elspeth Jones, enjoying an egg case hunt.

 

Our two merchandise campaigns have gone down a treat, delighting our customers and helping to fund some of our work.

claire-mcz-hoody
Thank you for the pic Claire!
deb-and-charlotte-1
Debbie and Charlotte looking great in their hoodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Founder and Chairperson Georgia French has given our first educational talks! Year 12 students at Parkstone Grammar School loved a talk about Georgia’s journey to a career with sharks, while Undergraduate and Masters students at Bournemouth University enjoyed talks on Shark Research Methods and Sharks and Setting up a Small Charity, respectively.

parkstone-stage
The stage was set for Georgia’s talk at Parkstone Grammar School!

Winning our first grant has made a huge difference to our operational capabilities, and we can’t wait to continue growing and making a difference for sharks in 2017! Thank you so much to all of our followers, supporters and enthusiasts – watch this space!!!

Dorset Dorsals – SharkStuff Education Project!

LUSH LOGO rectangle

Education is a core part of SharkStuff’s purpose, as we passionately believe that teaching people about sharks is key to conserving them. We are on a mission to change the public perception of sharks in general, and educate a wide audience on the sharks that we have here in the UK, as well as globally. To that end, we have some very exciting news!

We are tremendously pleased to announce that SharkStuff has won grant funding from the Lush Charity Pot scheme to conduct a Dorset-based educational project on sharks and their relatives.

LUSH LOGO rectangle

This project will enable us to:

1) Visit local schools, universities and clubs to give entertaining and informative talks that are sure to enlighten, impassion, and educate, not to mention change a few minds about sharks.

We will provide stimulating lessons on our local species as well as dispelling a few shark myths, and talks will be offered at primary, secondary and tertiary level, including information and advice on how to pursue a career in conservation science for older individuals where requested.

2) Conduct public shark and ray eggcase hunts and beach cleans on Dorset beaches!

We will provide the eggcase ID materials, gloves, bin bags and litter pickers, you will help us to look for eggcases and clean the beach! These guided events will teach you how to identify the different species of shark and ray that are laying eggs along the Dorset coast. All the data gathered will be uploaded to the Shark Trust’s Great Eggcase Hunt portal, helping them to map the distribution of shark and ray species around the UK.

Get Involved:

If you are interested in booking a free talk, please contact us via email at info@sharkstuff.co.uk.

Eggcase hunts/beach cleans will be announced on our Facebook and Twitter pages, all you have to do is meet us at the designated place and time. All children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an appropriate adult.

Nice one BRUV!

BRUV schematic

No we’re not using a slang greeting term! So what on earth is a BRUV and what has it got do with sharks?

BRUV is an acronym for Baited Remote Underwater Video and is a piece of equipment that basically allows you to fish for sharks but using a camera to catch them instead of a hook. We’re very pleased to announce that SharkStuff now has it’s very own BRUV, made possible by the proceeds from our recent t-shirt campaign. THANK YOU to everyone who purchased a top!

We carefully designed and sourced the relevant materials and have made a handy diagram of our new addition:

 

BRUV schematic
SharkStuff’s very own BRUV!

 

The camera (in our case, our trusty GoPro) captures footage of any animals that come to check out the bait placed in the wire mesh bait box. Because the waters around the UK are generally a little dark and turbid, we added a light to our design to help us see these animals better. It will also enable us to make drops at night when sharks and rays are usually more active! We even added an extra little bait box on the frame itself so that we can use two different kinds of bait to maximise our chances of enticing in our target species.

We tested out our BRUV over the weekend and are ecstatic to report that it works like a dream! We certainly captured some…interesting…wildlife during the test deployment.

 

We’re planning to use our BRUV (and hopefully several more) to survey for sharks and rays along the Dorset coast, highlighting the diversity that we have here and adding to efforts to get certain areas protected. We look forward to keeping you up to date with our BRUV adventures.

Gills Club Featured Scientist Q and A

As some of you may have gathered from our Facebook and Twitter accounts, Founder Georgia was one of the The Gills Club’s Featured Scientists for June!

Who are the Gills Club?

The Gills Club is; “Atlantic White Shark Conservancy’s STEM-based education initiative dedicated to connecting girls with female scientists from around the world, sharing knowledge, and inspiring shark and ocean conservation”.

“Each month Gills Club features two scientist from our Science Team in our monthly e-Newsletter and on our Facebook Group page. This gives our members unprecedented access to top female shark researchers in the field. Whether you want to become a marine biologist or just love sharks, as a Gills Club member you will learn about different shark species, the most recent research, and institutions that have been integral in helping our scientists reach their career goals.”

Gills Club Logo

On to the Questions and Answers!

*what species of sharks have you studied (primarily)?

Great white sharks are the subject of my PhD and I have previously worked primarily on whale sharks with some tagging work involving lemon sharks, bulls, tigers and spot tail sharks.

*what is the most current shark research you’ve done?

I’m in the second year of my PhD on great white sharks and at the moment I am focusing on using stable isotope analyses to look at the diets of the white sharks in South Africa.

*what do you enjoy most about being a scientist?

I have always had a very enquiring mind, and knew that I wanted to work with wildlife from as early as I can remember. I grew up wanting to know why animals behave the way that they do, and what their lives entail. Being a scientist gives me the opportunity to answer some of the many questions that I have about my favourite animals – sharks.

*Is there an institution that has been integral to helping you reach your career goals?

There are several! Working for the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles for 3.5 years gave me absolutely invaluable experience and provided me with my first opportunity to conduct shark research. I would not be where I am today without that experience. The Dyer Island Conservation Trust and Marine Dynamics have been integral in supporting my PhD fieldwork in Gansbaai, South Africa, allowing me to join their cage-diving trips so that I could collect data. The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board have been very generous in sharing valuable data with me, without which parts of my PhD to date would not have been possible.

*Why did you start studying sharks?

There is no way that I could not study sharks. I have been deeply fascinated by them from a very young age and once I had the opportunity to work with them, there was no going back. Bumping into my first shark (a little black tip reef shark) during a snorkel in Seychelles (previous to my employment with MCSS) was a life changing and affirming experience. We looked at each other, completely still for a few moments that felt like forever, and then he/she was gone. I was left with a heart that was beating a thousand miles an hour and a feeling of incredulous elation. After that, my long-held interest in sharks evolved into a concrete determination to work with them.

*Is there a female biologist that inspired you? How so? Please provide their name and a short blurb about their work and why they inspired you:

Without a doubt, Diane Fossey was a huge inspiration. Her dedication and bravery in choosing to study her beloved gorillas in dangerous circumstances was very empowering to me – if she could do these things, maybe I could too. A quote from her book, Gorillas in the Mist, stays with me “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.”

Marian Dawkins was another personal hero during my teens – I was elated to find an eminent female scientist in the field of animal behaviour and I remember borrowing her book from the library and not wanting to give it back.

*How does your research benefit shark conservation?

My current research on white sharks in South Africa will provide more information on the ecology of the sharks, which will provide a more informed basis upon which to base their management. My work on whale sharks involved using GIS mapping and ecological modeling tools to design temporary protected areas for the seasonal aggregation in the Seychelles – allocating protection of their core use areas through reducing boat speeds and enforcing the Encounter Code to limit disturbance through eco-tourism. I used a portion of my shark tagging work (along with tag data from rays and turtles) to evaluate protected species’ use of a Marine Park. I analysed the animal’s temporal and spatial use of the park and produced management recommendations for the Seychelles National Parks Authority.

*What is the most interesting thing you have learned from your research?

That’s a tough one! I think that the most interesting thing that I have learned, and come across more and more, is that individual variation in a massively important consideration in the study of sharks. Not all sharks of the same species or population act the same way!

*Do you have a favorite memory from being on the water?

Another tough question! Aside from my first ever shark encounter, one of my many wonderful memories is being looked at by a white shark during a cage dive. The shark in question is well known and much loved by the Marine Dynamics crew and is dubbed “Malcolm X” due to the large X-shaped scar on her dorsal fin. She’s a big girl (approx. 4m) and I’d been lucky enough to collect some behavioural data (from the top deck of the boat) from her in previous days. She cruised very close by the cage really slowly and looked straight at me and I could see her eye move to stay on me as she moved past. It was breathtaking to be contemplated by such an awesome animal.

Malcolm X logos
The absolutely stunning Malcolm X. She was so calm and graceful and to be looked at so intently by her gave me an indescribable feeling.

*Is there any topic/aspect of your research that you would like to share that has not been covered above? Please include!

My charity, SharkStuff is running a shark meme based educational campaign and we would love for Gills to get involved! Memes are visual, simple, often funny and can be very informative. We’re making and sharing shark memes on our Facebook and Twitter (@Shark_Stuff) pages every Monday as part of our Shark Meme Monday project. There are lots of ways that you can make your meme – for some guidance and information on where to send your meme, follow the link to the page on the SharkStuff website: http://bit.ly/1Wlh7d1

Endangered Sharks: What Does it Mean and Which Species are at Risk?

Endangered

1/4 of Chondrichthyan fishes (sharks, rays and chimaeras) are threatened with extinction and the term “endangered” is often associated with sharks…but what does it mean and which sharks are actually endangered?

Red List logo

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the body responsible for producing the famous Red List of Threatened Species. This list defines the conservation status of species by using criteria based on past and present population sizes, spatial distribution and the threats faced by the species. These criteria are used to put species into different categories of threat:

  • Extinct – the species no longer exists
  • Extinct in the Wild – the species only exists in captivity
  • Critically Endangered – the species is at very high risk of becoming extinct
  • Endangered – the species is at high risk of becoming extinct
  • Vulnerable – the species is likely to become Endangered unless conservation action takes place
  • Near Threatened – the species does not yet qualify for any of the Threatened categories, but it may do in the near future
  • Least Concern – the species has been evaluated and does not meet any of the above criteria
  • Data Deficient – the species has not yet been evaluated/there is not enough data to evaluate the species

 

categories

 

Many sharks are slow growing, long lived and have relatively few offspring; a life strategy that is called k-selected. This life strategy means that they find is very hard to bounce back from fishing pressure, so their numbers fall easily and cannot rise again without conservation management intervention.

Sharks are assessed by the Species Survival Commission and IUCN Shark Specialist Group, and we’ve put together a list of the different threat categories and some of the sharks that fall under each one. All text within quotes is sourced from the IUCN Redlist description of each species. You may be surprised that it’s not always the most recognisable species that are under the greatest threat of extinction!

 

Extinct

We all know about prehistoric shark species like the Megalodon that have become extinct, but here’s a more recent story. Until 2008, it was believed that the smalltooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon) was no more – then it was found in a fish market. Without experts on the look out at every fish market across the world, it is difficult to record all the shark species present, especially if they look incredibly similar to other species!

smoothtooth-shark
Top: a juvenile smalltooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon) photographed by Alec Moore, Shark Conservation Society and IUCN Shark Specialist Group.

 

critically endangered

Common Angelshark

Sadly, several shark species come under this heading. This includes the angelshark (Squatina squatina).

Common Angel Shark 044
Common Angel Shark (Squatina squatina). El Cabron Marine Park, Arinaga, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, eastern Atlantic Ocean. Andy Murch/Elasmodiver.com

 

This shark is now locally extinct in parts of its range and has suffered massive population declines in the last fifty years due to overfishing; “…estimated and suspected past declines of at least 80% over three generations and the likelihood of continuing future declines resulting from fishing pressure”. The fantastic guys at the Angelshark Project are working hard to conserve these sharks in their last stronghold, the Canaries.

Daggernose Shark

The daggernose shark (Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus) is only found around the coast of South America. We still know relatively little about this enigmatic shark, but it is known that they are in serious trouble due to incidental catch in artisanal fisheries. It doesn’t always take intensive commercial fishing fleets to wipe out shark species – because these sharks naturally occur over a small range, they are easily fished out by local fishers.

daggernoseshark
Daggernose shark illustrations from Lessa, R., Santana, F.M., Batista, V. and Almeida, Z. (2000) Age and growth of the daggernose shark, Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus from northern Brazil. Marine and Freshwater Research 51(4): 339-347.

 

Endangered

 

Great and Scalloped Hammerheads

Hammerhead sharks are easily recognised and much loved but did you know that both the great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) are listed as Endangered? Both species have undergone declines or at least 50% across their ranges and are still being overfished, partly as a result of being highly valued in the fin trade. These guys do not cope with being caught well, and very often die from capture stress, despite being released.

single hammerhead
A scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) caught on video by Dr. Simon Pierce. It’s called scalloped because of the bumpy shape of its hammer.

 

vulnerable

White Shark

Two of the best recognised and most loved shark species are Vulnerable to the risk of extinction – the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and the whale shark (Rhincodon typus).

SharkStuff white shark
The wonderfully charismatic white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) taken by SharkStuff’s Georgia French.

 

“Threats to the species include targeted commercial and sports fisheries for jaws, fins, game records and for aquarium display; protective beach meshing; media-fanned campaigns to kill Great White Sharks after a biting incident occurs; and degradation of inshore habitats used as pupping and nursery grounds.” The white shark has received legal protection in many countries across its range. Frustratingly though, when populations of white sharks are perceived to grow (note perceived), there are sometimes calls for a cull to reduce their numbers again, which somewhat defeats the point of protecting them in the first place.

Whale Shark

Giant whale shark dwarfes divers
The biggest fish in the sea – the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) by Dr. Simon Pierce.

 

Targeted and bycatch fishing are both threats faced by the whale shark, which already naturally existed at low abundance. Harassment through poorly managed “ecotourism” is an issue in some areas.

 

near threatened

This group contains (among others) three famous species; tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier), bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and white tip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus).

 

Tiger shark: “There is evidence of declines for several populations where they have been heavily fished, but in general they do not face a high risk of extinction. However, continued demand, especially for fins, may result in further declines in the future.”

Bull Shark: “It is caught in fisheries throughout its range, but it is rarely a target species. Its occurrence in estuarine and freshwater areas makes it more vulnerable to human impacts and habitat modification.”

White tip reef shark: “Formally it was abundant over coral reefs, these sharks’ numbers are at lower levels than those found prior to widespread expansion of fishing in the past 20 years. The species’ restricted habitat, depth range, small litter size and moderately late age at maturity suggest that with increasing fishing pressure this species may become threatened.”

 

data deficient

This is sometimes one of the most alarming categories for a species to fall under as it can mean that there are just too few of the animals available to study for them to be formally classified! Upon classification, many Data Deficient species are immediately recognised as under threat of extinction.

Broadnose Sevengill Shark

The broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) is currently listed as Data Deficient due to lack of fisheries data. These sharks are generally considered as calm and peaceful and are commonly dived with in South Africa.

broadnose sevengill
Broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) by Peter Verhoog.