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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Star eggcase finder no. 1!
Star eggcase finder no. 2!
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!
We were over the moon to find out that we had collected an impressive 89 eggcases, from at least four different species!!
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!
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.
We got some lovely educational and promotional materials made by some equally lovely people.
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.
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!
We welcomed onboard Trustee and Treasurer, Andrew Roberts and were delighted to add Alexis Drayson to the Social Media team.
Our eggcase hunts have continued with some great findings, all uploaded to the Shark Trusts Great Eggcase Hunt portal.
Our two merchandise campaigns have gone down a treat, delighting our customers and helping to fund some of our work.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
If you are interested in booking a free talk, please contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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.
Here I’m using a pair of parallel lasers to take measurements from this beautiful white shark.
White sharks love GoPros! They are attracted by the electrical signals the cameras give off and often come over to have a look.
*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.
A box of white shark muscle samples ready to be prepared for stable isotope analysis!
This is the fully prepared sample, wrapped in a tin capsule – I couldn’t believe how small they were!
I used very precise weighing scales to make sure that my samples were the correct weight.
My friend and colleague Simone Rizutto about to take a muscle sample from one of our white sharks.
*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.
I’d like to think I was pointing out a shark during this survey dive but I think it was a butterflyfish!
Thorny back rays always get the thumbs up from me.
Finally finding and retrieving this deep and encrusted acoustic receiver was very satisfying!
One of the best parts of of being a shark scientist is getting to go to different places and meet new and wonderful people.
After lots of planning and uncertainty, actually collecting and having data is a thrill.
*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.
It wasn’t all sharks at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles – I did a lot of turtle work too and loved it, including army crawling through bushes to get GPS locations of nests!
My prize possession at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles – my shark tagging box!
All kitted up and ready for a white shark data collection trip with Marine Dynamics. Working through a day’s worth of data underneath a massive right whale skeleton in The Great White House was always a strange but awesome experience.
The KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board office has some very awesome inhabitants!
*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.
This is a special white shark, Mini Nemo. He has a “lucky” right hand side pectoral fin which is much smaller than it should be. It doesn’t stop him from being very curious and feisty though!
A pile of nurse sharks that I can across during a snorkel survey.
A still taken from a video where I managed to capture two bull sharks accidentally bumping heads!
A blonde ray eggcase found during a SharkStuff eggcase hunt in Dorset, UK.
This is a bait barrel that was left by unknown persons at a popular dive site in Seychelles. When removed the morning following its discovery, it looked like this! This bite was likely made by either a bull or tiger shark. It now sits in my living room!
*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.
Diane Fossey with some of her beautiful gorillas.
Marian Dawkins, a giant in the field of animal behaviour.
*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.
I used ecological modelling and mapping tools to map priority habitat and core use areas of whale sharks around the island of Mahe, Seychelles. The results are being used to create temporary protected areas for the sharks during their annual aggregations.
Taking a quick measurement of a lemon shark pup before tagging.
Here I’m surgically implanting an acoustic tag into this little lemon shark so that we could track her movements in the marine park.
*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!
This little lady behaved very differently to our male lemon shark pup – after only a little while in the marine park, she headed out into the big blue.
This is one of my absolute favourite white sharks, Frowny. I named him Frowny because some scratches above his eye made him look grumpy!
*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.
*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
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
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!
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!
Sadly, several shark species come under this heading. This includes the angelshark (Squatina squatina).
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.
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.
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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.”
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.