Showing posts tagged as "research"
New Future for Great White Sharks?
Should great white sharks in the Northeastern Pacific be placed on the endangered species list? That’s the issue being considered by Californa and U.S. wildlife officials, who have received petitions calling for protection under state and federal Endangered Species acts.
The Aquarium is very supportive of this process, and we’re assisting in any way we can so the final decision is based on the best, most current science.
Much of what’s known about the lives of adult and juvenile great white sharks today – from migration patterns and population size, to the contaminant levels in their tissues – is the result of studies in which the Aquarium, along with a broad consortium of scientists from Stanford, UC Davis, CSU Long Beach and other institutions, has played a key role.
There’s more public concern about the future of great white sharks in part because we have, since 2004, introduced more than 3 million people to a half-dozen young sharks face-to-face in our Open Sea exhibit. Visitors tell us that the experience changed their attitudes and say they were inspired to help protect white sharks in the wild.
While the review process is under way, we’ve decided not to collect white sharks for exhibit. It’s our hope that any new policies protecting white sharks will allow for occasional exhibit of white sharks (before their return to the wild) and for a vigorous field research program. Both public engagement and research are essential to assure a future for white sharks.
Did you see them? Visitors and staff were surprised to see Humboldt squid off our back deck over the weekend! They would surf up on the beach and strand when the waves receded, then wash back into the water, then back up on the beach. The local gulls started picking at them and the squid started inking!
Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas) can reach over six feet and are voracious predators.They’ve moved into the area in large numbers in recent years. Prior to this, we only found an occasional specimen in this area, primarily associated with El Nino warming. This species is traditionally found on both sides of the Baja California peninsula and occasionally into Southern California. This may be due to warming ocean temperatures along this coast or some other phenomenon we don’t understand yet.
Great white sharks are in the news a lot this week, what with a kayak bitten by a large shark while the occupant was paddling off Santa Cruz. On the East Coast, there have been sightings close to shore near Cape Cod. And right before Fourth of July, the beach off La Jolla in southern California was closed because of a great white swimming close to shore.
None of the California sightings come as a surprise to researchers with our Project White Shark team. Since 2002, we and our university colleagues have documented the movements and migrations of great white sharks along our coast.
We’ve confirmed that adults make seasonal migrations from the coast to waters as far west as Hawaii—and beyond—as well as to a place midway between the coast and Hawaii that our researchers have dubbed the “White Shark Café.”
Those adults are returning to the Central Coast right about now, a migration timed to the arrival of elephant seals and other pinnipeds at breeding colonies in the Farallon Islands outside San Francisco Bay and at Point Año Nuevo north of Santa Cruz.
Off southern California, smaller juvenile great whites are common much of the time, including in waters right outside the surf zone along popular beaches. There are few reported interactions with people, because the young sharks feed on schooling fishes, small sharks and rays, and similar prey—animals whose shape is not easily confused with that of a person swimming, surfing or paddling on the surface.
We’ll be back in the field in August, for another season of tagging both adults and juveniles. We already have data from around 250 tags on adults and around 50 tags on juveniles.
The California State Sea Otter Fund passed, and not just by a whisker! The fund now has $288,817 to support sea otter research and conservation in 2012. Thanks for checking the box on your state tax form! If you’ve yet to file for 2011, you can still contribute.