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.

 

Dorset Dorsals

spiny dogfish

Sharks in Dorset UK?! Yep, it’s not a misinformed Daily Mail headline about a great white – Dorset has sharks! And that’s a wonderful thing.

The UK is home to over 30 species of shark, all of which can be found, complete with brilliant free ID guides, on the Shark Trusts’s website.

We are very privileged to have our Head Quarters in Dorset, UK, where we have a stunning and vibrant stretch of coast that is home to several beautiful shark species. Many people are shocked that we have sharks here, and the majority do not know that some of these species are at risk of extinction. We have a tendency to think that sharks only live in blue, tropical seas and that our wildlife is relatively safe – sadly this is not so.

Spiny dogfish 052
Gorgeous spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), photo by Andy Murch.

 

“To put this into context, this is a worse listing than either pandas, polar bears or great white sharks.”

Here are just a few examples. The spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias) Northeast Atlantic population is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist of threatened species. Yes, dogfish are sharks!! Our waters are also graced by porbeagles, (Lamna nasus) a relative of the great white shark that is Critically Endangered in Europe. Critically Endangered. Angel sharks (Squatina squatina) used to be common catches off the British coast, but guess what? Yep, Critically Endangered, across their entire range. To put this into context, this is a worse listing than either pandas, polar bears or great white sharks.

Common Angel Shark 044
Common Angel Shark (Squatina squatina), now restricted almost entirely to the Canary Islands. 

One of SharkStuff’s major objectives is to raise awareness of UK sharks, particularly our local sharks in Dorset. We are in the planning and preparation stages of some educational projects and shark research in Dorset which we will be excited to share with you.

Shark Meme Monday #6 Round Up

Spotty Tiger Shark Meme

We can’t believe we’re at the 6th Shark Meme Monday already! Here’s a round up of this week’s memes for your viewing pleasure.

Tiger Shark:

We started off this Monday with a gorgeous juvenile tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). Tiger sharks are famous for their namesake stripes, but did you know that they are born spotty? Yep, adorably spotty little tiger shark pups! Their spots change to stripes as they get older and the stripes eventually fade. On really big tigers, the stripes can be very hard to see.

Spotty Tiger Shark Meme

 

Basking Shark:

Our second meme was an oldie but goldie from the internet, featuring a basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus). The basking shark is the second largest living fish species, only outsized by the whale shark (Rhincodon typus). While their size is truly impressive, like the whale shark, they feed on teeny tiny plankton.

basking shark meme

Responsible Reporting

 

The public’s perception of sharks has a big impact on efforts to conserve and protect them. The way in which the media reports on shark related stories can in turn have a big impact on the public’s perception of sharks. This means that the media has a lot of power over the fate of shark species, a great power which, you guessed it, SHOULD come with great responsibility.

“…the media have a lot of power over the fate of shark species, a great power which, you guessed it, SHOULD come with great responsibility”.

Time and time again we are faced with hysterical and exaggerated articles about “monster” and “killer” sharks that seem to be deliberately intent on chomping on people at every chance (see The Actual Truth About White Shark Bites for the dissection of one such article). We all know that this is just not true, and is only used to entice readers and sell stories. However, some media organisations seem to have stepped up, taken responsibility and decided to report responsibly on shark stories. We have a recent examples of two headlines to illustrate the point:

“California shark attack victim recounts horror”

International Business Times, 08/06/2016

orrrrrrrr…

“Woman recalls shark bite, rescue off California coast”

Naples Herald, 07/06/2016

Two headlines, same story. One is sensationalised, hyperbolic and irresponsible, the other is factual, rational and responsible.

These two recent headlines encapsulate good and bad media coverage of a shark bite. While the  article that followed the poorly worded headline was nothing compared to some of the downright ludicrous and vitriolic articles we have seen, it could definitely take notes from the report written by Amy Taxin and Christopher Weber for the Naples Herald.

Instead of inciting hysteria by stating that shark “attacks” are increasing globally, Taxin and Weber chose to point out the fact that sharks bites are incredibly rare, and quoted Dr. Christopher Lowe,director of the Shark Lab at California State University; “There are more great white sharks in the waters off California thanks to protective measures, and the human population has also grown, so occasional encounters happen”.

SharkStuff has decided that enough is enough, and we would like to help empower you to make a change to the way in which sharks are covered in the media. We’ve put together a Responsible Reporting Template, which you can easily download and send to any media organisation that distributes irresponsible shark stories. The template contains evidence from scientific literature and suggestions on how shark stories should be reported on. Each and every use will count towards effecting positive change for sharks.

I Support Shark Research

Merch campaign pic

We’re very excited (and a little bit proud) to be launching our first run of merchandise! We teamed up once again with the wonderful design people over at EDNA to bring you some top quality sharky clothing.

We’re using TeeSpring to run a two week campaign, offering you the chance to get your hands on men’s, women’s and children’s tops. We’ve opted for organic where it was available (adult t-shirts) but kept the price as low as possible – organic items are more expensive to produce but we think that the reduction in money that comes to us is outbalanced by the ecological benefits of responsible merchandise production.

This company was used at the 2015 Fisheries Society of the British Isles’s “Biology, Ecology and Conservation of Elasmobranchs” conference attended by SharkStuff co-founder Georgia. She purchased a conference hoody and can personally attest to its high quality!

We’ve got:

  • men’s and women’s organic t-shirts
  • women’s vests
  • unisex adult hoodies

…and, due to popular demand!

  • children’s t-shirts
  • children’s hoodies

All are available in a variety of sizes and colours, and will be available to purchase from Monday the 13th to Monday the 27th of June.

Apart from the fact that these tops look awesome, you’ll be supporting our work, Using Education to Change Perception and Science to Save Sharks, to achieve our ultimate goal, Shared Oceans, Safe Sharks.

Shark Meme Round Up #4 and #5

Hammerhead vision meme

It’s a double whammy this week as we bring you two week’s worth of shark meme awesomeness!

Week #4

White Shark

Our first meme of week #4 was sent in by Leila Baker, aged 9. We absolutely loved this meme – some adults have a lot to learn from children! The media-enduced expectations of monster sharks melt away when you look past the hysteria to the beautiful and awesome creatures that swim behind the myths.

Leila shark meme

Goblin Shark

Our second meme came courtesy a good old internet search! We found this one so amusing that we had to share it with you.

That being said, we love you just the way you are goblin shark!

The goblin shark (Mitsukurina owstoni) likes to hang out on the sea floor at up to 1, 300m deep and is thought to be able to grow to between 5.5 and 6m in length. They have ultra-awesome jaws that can rapidly extend to help them snap up their food and are considered rare. Their rarity means that relatively little is known about them.

goblin shark narwhal

Week #5

Our memes this week feature one of our all time favourite types of shark; one of the most unusually shaped, instantly recognisable  and beloved group of creatures of the ocean.  That’s right…..STOP!  It’s HAMMER TIME.

Hammerhead Sharks

Lots of people assume that the hammerhead’s hammer is all about electroreception- not true! Because hammerhead’s eyes are placed at the end of their T-shaped heads, their field of vision is so great that they can see 360 degrees around themselves. Where these fields overlap in front and behind their heads, they have stereo vision which gives them enhanced depth perception. AWESOME.  This is a picture of a scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), a species that forms huge seasonal schools.

Hammerhead vision meme

Oceanic White Tip

Our second Shark Meme Monday #5 offering was of an oceanic white tip (Carcharhinus longimanus).

The longimanus part of their scientific name comes from the Latin for “long hands” and was given to them because they have extra long pectoral fins which help them glide across vast areas of the open ocean.

Oceanic white tip meme

The We would love for you to share your own sharky memes with us! If you’d like to get involved, there are some tips here: http://bit.ly/1Wlh7d1 and you can message your memes either through Facebook or to info@sharkstuff.co.uk

Shark Meme Monday #3 Round Up

preserved cookie cutter meme

We’re particularly pleased with Shark Meme Monday #3! We got great feedback on both Twitter and Facebook including a Retweet from the Save Our Seas Foundation – it’s really nice to be noticed by such a big organisation that is involved in so much awesome sharky work around the globe.

On to the memes!

Our first meme featured a cookie cutter shark (Isitius spp – there are three species) and was a parody of the popular Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of tea meme. We think it’s amazing that a relatively small (cat sized) shark could take out a nuclear submarine! Cookie cutters were found to be responsible for disabling the sub’s sonar equipment – effectively blinding them and forcing them back to base for repairs.That’s a big impact from a little shark.

preserved cookie cutter meme

 

Our second meme was a personal one from Founder Georgia French, based on a classic scene from a Spiderman movie. Georgia may be conducting a PhD on white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) but it’s been nearly a year since she last saw one! Withdrawal symptoms are pronounced and include loud sighs, moping and gazing longingly into the middle distance. It was reassuring to find some kindred spirits and lovely to hear from people that have been able to see sharks recently.

Haven't seen a shark

 

Our last meme of the day focussed on the predation strategy of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus). These slow moving sharks were once thought to include seals in their diet by scavenging on dead individuals. It’s now emerged that they likely sneak up on sleeping seals and catch them by surprise! This one is a parody of the Game of Thrones meme featuring Eddard Stark.

greenland shark eating a seal meme

We’d love to feature your memes! You can send memes either as a message to the Facebook page or to Georgia at georgia.c.a.french@gmail.com (our official email address is experiencing some issues!). For some guidance on how to prepare your meme, check out the info here.