Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shark Attacks Rise As Their Population Plummets - What Gives?

Shark Attacks Rise As Their Population Plummets - What Gives?

Tim Long

I read this article yesterday (bottom of this post). Even though the title is somewhat of a dichotomy, the statement is true and makes sense. Anyone who knows me, knows that one of my fears for the world is over population of humans. I remember in October 1996 when we (the world) hit the six billion mark. It was a dark day for me and one that I had been dreading since I began to understand what population and over population meant when I was young.

So, you put more humans in the waters where sharks live, hunt, breed, and do whatever else they do and you're going to increase the chances of attacks. I don't abide by the word "attack". "Mistake" or "provoked defense" is more suitable. In the following photo you can see the shark (in its natural habitat) sharing the same space with eighteen humans. Accidents are bound to occur.But if the shark population is decreasing, why are the "attacks" increasing? One may ask.

Shallow waters are where sharks (the great sharks like Tigers, Whites, Bull, Reef, etc.) spend time, so even with diminished numbers, they are still congregating in the same proximity as humans.

It's really ironic. As the article points out, there was ONE human fatality in 2007 resulting from an encounter with a shark, which, I'm certain received ample press. This article states that 38 million sharks are killed by humans EVERY year. I believe the numbers to be about double that actually.

I realize not many people, at least who I know, care or think about the well being of sharks or marine life in general, but it leaves a lump in my throat and a sadness like a dull ache in my chest every time I think about it, which is often. One of my biggest regrets in life is not pursuing a marine biology degree. I've been enthralled by the ocean and sharks, especially, since the summer when I turned eight years old.

For anyone who's interested in gaining a better insight into the ocean, its health, and management of it, I recommend Carl Safina's book Song For The Blue Ocean It is one of the most beautifully written books on the topic that I've come across. Content aside, it was very enjoyable. Carl Safina's heart and feelings surge throughout every page.

Now for the article:

Shark attacks increase worldwide

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The number of worldwide shark attacks overall increased from 63 in 2006 to 71 in 2007, continuing a gradual upswing over the past four years, according to figures released by LiveScience on Wednesday.

Because the global population of humans is growing fast, so more people go to the beach, said George Burgess, curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

And nowadays, beach-goers do not just go for a dunk. They hang out in shallow water (home for many sharks) for long periods of time to surf, windsurf, boogie-board, kayak and dive, he said while explaining the cause for the rise in shark attacks.

"There are more people in the water than there ever have been," Burgess told LiveScience. "We can pretty much predict that next year there will be even more attacks. Even if shark populations are declining, which we know they are, even in a local situation if populations have been depleted, there is still a probability of getting an attack."

Sharks are disappearing from the world's oceans due to over fishing, says Julia Baum, a researcher at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego, California.

Humans killed an estimated 38 million sharks for their fins each year, Baum said. That's as many sharks as the entire human populations of the 35 largest cities in the United States. Other estimates are nearly double that.

Some nations have banned shark fishing, but the bans are hard to enforce. And it is a free-for-all in international waters, Baum said.

A study conducted by Baum showed all great shark species in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean have declined by more than 50 percent since the early 1970s.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service is proposing to effectively close down much of the coastal large shark fisheries, Baum said.

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