Shark “Virgin” Birth: Immaculate conception, or Scientific Process?

BY Susana E Navajas
Founder & Director, Save The Sharks

You’ve most likely seen it all over social media, “Shark Gives Virgin Birth,” or something of the sort. However, the reality is far more complex and interesting that just lazily giving it the title of ‘virgin’ birth. It’s called parthenogenesis, and it’s as fascinating as it sounds. Parthenogenesis, Greek for ‘virgin birth’, is the “…production of offspring without fertilization by a male…” (Robinson et al., 2011). To further clarify it, there is also automictic parthenogenesis which is a type of asexual reproduction “…characterized by the production of an egg through meiosis, followed by the fusion of the ovum with one of its sister polar bodies, producing a diploid zygote with elevated homozygosity compared to its mother.” (Robinson et al., 2011).

2.jpg

                Whoa. In more common terms, after cell division has happened, instead of using one male cell and one female cell, two female cells are used and fused together to create a zygote, which has elevated homozygosity (basically having zero genetic diversity) as opposed to heterozygous (which has both male and female). As if sharks weren’t cool enough, right?

                The first ever well studied case of a parthenogenesis in sharks was with Bonnethead sharks in captivity. It was “…significant because the well-documented capture history of these sharks is inconsistent with sperm storage by the mother as the probable explanation.” (Chapman et al., 2007) It was improbable that they were capable of sexual activity prior to the capture, so any theories of sperm storage are void. Due to these sharks being very well studied, and the births being well documented, it provided the “…first evidence for asexual reproduction in the most ancient jawed vertebrate lineage.” (Chapman et al., 2007)

                 Chapman describes the moment he saw the results as a watershed moment. “Up until then, we logically assumed male and female mate and they give birth,” he says. “It was one of those just great eureka moments you have in science, when bam, you see this picture come out of nothing, when you see something that just completely surprises you.” (Holtcamp, 2009)

                  Upon further studies, they found that since a male was not used at all, only female offspring were produced, which is consistent with automictic parthenogenesis. One of the main proposals for why parthenogenesis takes place is due to the fact that in certain situations, “…female sharks have difficulty encountering suitable mates.” (Chapman et al., 2007)

                  Furthermore, these documented cases may be expected to “…result in both a substantial loss of genetic variation…” and it could also “…result in unexpectedly high inbreeding, loss of genetic variation and changes in founder contribution.” (Hedrick, 2007) Since these female sharks do not have male mate counterparts, they learn to adapt, however, certain adaptations may contribute to genetic limitations because there just isn’t enough genetic “material.”

                  There was no information on whether this occurred in other chondrichthyan species or in the wild. “The big question was, was this a fluke, or is this unique to hammerheads [a recently derived lineage of elasmobranchs]?” Chapman said. “As it turns out, not even a couple weeks after the first paper was released, there was a newspaper report of another shark potentially doing this, a blacktip. This time I didn't bet any Guinness on it.” (Holtcamp, 2009)

                Bonnethead sharks were the first verified case, and the second case of parthenogenesis in sharks were found within Blacktip sharks, in captivity. Due to there being several cases, this could indicate that “small bodied sharks have evolved parthenogenesis as a means to avoid reproductive failure in situations when males are scarce within isolated habitat patches since small shark species tend to have more limited dispersal capabilities than larger species.” (Chapman et al., 2008) Which is further backed up by the fact that almost all of the cases have involved egg-laying species that have small adult size bodies (less than 2m in length).

pathenogenesis cartoon.png

                   Parthenogenesis has only been documented for sharks in captivity thus far, but one of the theories for sharks in the wild possibly exhibiting the process is that “…the widespread population collapses occurring for many sharks due to overexploitation may increase the expression of automictic (also known as automixis) if females have difficulty finding mates at low population densities and significant numbers of their ova are left unfertilized.” (Chapman et al., 2008) Simply put, if females cannot find males with whom to mate, they begin this asexual reproductive process.

                   Within these two documented cases, the females have only produced a single offspring, and none have lived more than three days. Enter the White-Spotted Bamboo shark. In 2010, a genetically verified case of automictic parthenogenesis was verified, and the offspring survived for 5 years or more. What makes this sharks’ case most interesting is that it was “…purchased by the hobbyist as an egg case and was hatched and reared with no contact with other bamboo sharks.” (Feldheim, et al., 2010) Seven eggs in total, within a 6-year period, were deposited and four of them developed all female embryos.

                   Prior to the Bamboo shark, both documented cases were within oviparous (egg laying) species, but once the Bamboo had verified parthenogenetic offspring, the taxonomic variation became diverse because they are placental viviparous (birth giving) species. In addition, the Bamboo shark provides “…the first evidence in sharks that multiple offspring can be produced, and that they can live for long periods.” (Feldheim, et al., 2010)

                   “Females actually will continuously lay eggs whether they have a male or not. Normally people would assume these are infertile eggs and throw them in the garbage,” Chapman said. It appears eggs from this species (bamboo sharks) seem to undergo parthenogenesis quite commonly. “What actually happens is a female lays 20 to 30 eggs, and 1 to 3 develop,” says Chapman, who is on the trail of genetically confirming parthenogenesis in these sharks. (Holtcamp, 2009)

                   Then, in 2011, another verified and documented case of a shark producing embryos and pups in the absence of a male was reported. It was a Zebra shark and “…a total of 15 pups were produced, over a period of four consecutive years.” (Robinson et al., 2011) Now having four different species of sharks being documented for having parthenogenesis reproduction, “…it is of general biological interest to determine how widespread and common it is among sharks.” (Chapman et al., 2008).

1.jpg

                    Again, with the Zebra shark, all of the embryos were female, which pairs up with parthenogenetic reproduction. With this case, like all of the others, the question of whether any male genetic material was used, as “several species of shark are known to store sperm for several months after copulation” (Robinson et al., 2011) Also, like all of the other cases, through DNA testing, it was shown that no paternal contribution took place. Therefore, “this finding is thought to provide the first genetically confirmed successive virgin birth for chondrichthyans as well as the fourth verified case of parthenogenesis in sharks and the first for the family Stegostomatidae.” (Robinson et al., 2011)

                   It’s been well established that aquarists believe more species are capable of parthenogenesis, but since larger species could easily eat the smaller newborn pups, it is hard to tell. Given that parthenogenesis does not seem to be a rare occurrence for sharks in captivity, it can lead to questions about how common it may or may not be for sharks in the wild. A concern, however, with species in the wild doing this is the status of genetic variability. Due to the fact that the pups are half clones of the mother, genetic diversity in shark populations could be reduced. With less diversity, comes physiological and anatomical defects, which make it harder for them to properly function in the wild.

                    The fact that shark numbers are declining worldwide, could result in species resorting to parthenogenesis as a primal form of survival. This, of course, has not been properly verified. Other negative effects noted could be that “…shark fisheries often intensively fish a particular location which also increases the chance that all of one sex could be wiped out in a particular region.” (Holtcamp, 2009)

                      Parthenogenesis has a further disadvantage for sharks: Through sexual reproduction, sharks can deliver up to 15 pups per litter; with parthenogenesis, in every case only one pup has been delivered. With egg-laying species, only a few develop from a clutch. So, while parthenogenesis is an extremely interesting process, it may not have the best positive effects on shark populations. The best thing to do, would be to further observe, document, and verify these cases within captivity and see what can further be learned from sharks, and their spectacular adaptive qualities.

Sharks, The Apex Predators

Sharks, the Apex Predators of the Sea

Behind all conservation, there is appreciation. The most important tool for successful conservation is knowledge, a clear understanding of why you care in the first place. Sharks are a vital species for a healthy ocean, however this fact is often forgotten for dramatic impact in media publications. Understanding why their existence is crucial for our ocean cuts out any clouded judgement upon sharks that may previously exist. 

Sharks are Apex Predators

Sharks are top or “apex” predators in the marine ecosystem. This is because they have very few natural predators. A cascade effect naturally occurs in a balanced, healthy ecosystem, whether it be marine or terrestrial. Sharks as the apex predator, act as a regulator for biodiversity (Friedrich, Jefferson & Glegg, 2014, 3). They directly limit the abundance of species below them in the cascade or food chain. Sharks diets are especially varied, so that no one species of prey will become low in numbers through over predation (Friedrich et al, 2014, 3). If certain populations of prey are low, sharks are able to switch to another food source. This continues throughout the food chain, and is a sign of a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem. It is a naturally occurring event, which is greatly important, to provide a balance of species within the ecosystem itself. 

An Ocean Without Sharks 

Studies have shown that the greater abundance of sharks, the greater the diversity of species (Paine, 1966, 65). When comparing two reefs, one with sharks and one without, the latter circumstance showed species absences. Without sharks, there is a risk of over predation by the middle to lower predatory species with evidence of over eating of vegetation or primary producers (kelp, phytoplankton, or sea grass). Herbivorous preying species are in abundance with increased competition on food sources, called a “Top-Down” effect (Martin, 2009, 111). This results in surplus of middle predatory species, and overeating of the lowest species on the food chain which ultimately effects the species richness, and biodiversity upon the reef. If this was to occur on a larger scale, it could be catastrophic. The health of the ocean would decline, and seriously affect the way we live. 

Ocean Food Web Figure 1: Food web demonstrating sharks as the apex predator. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Ocean Food Web Figure 1: Food web demonstrating sharks as the apex predator. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Sharks have been on this planet for 450 million years, and are pretty amazing creatures. They come in many different types, from the gentle Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), to the notorious Great White (Carcharodon carcharias). Sharks are important for our ocean’s survival and need to be protected. There should be more concern of an ocean without sharks, rather than a beach with sightings and baited drum lines. As the apex predators of our largest ecosystem, sharks deserve our respect and our conservation efforts to protect them. 

Written by Jessica McCabe

 

 

Friedrich, L.A., Jefferson, R. & Glegg, G. (2014). Public Perceptions of Sharks: Gathering Support for Shark Conservation. Marine Policy, 47 :1-7. Doi: doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.02.003

Martin, R.A. (2009). Hunting Patterns and Geographic Profiling of White Shark Predation. Journal of Zoology, 279(2): 111-118. Doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00586.x 

Paine, R.T. (1966). Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity. The American Naturalist, 100 (910): 65-75. Retrieved from: http://oceana.org/sites/default/files/reports/Predators_as_Prey_FINAL_1.pdf

 

Image: Carnivore: Aquatic Food Web. (2011). [Art]. In Britannica Online for Kids. Retrieved from http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-55763

"Of Shark and Man" Review

Recently, we were given the wonderful opportunity to watch the feature length shark documentary Of Shark and Man. Below, you will find our review of it:

Of Shark and Man represents what all good documentaries should be; a heartfelt story told tastefully, artistically and has the immense capability to move you. David Diley does a fantastic job of balancing his own narrative, the story of Fiji and the story of the sharks of Fiji. He does it so well, in fact, that you do not realize there are three different stories going on, but instead one finely blended tale. 

Everything about this feature length documentary was perfect; the editing, the narratives, the cinematography, the underwater footage - all of it, seriously. David does a marvelous job of getting you interested in his own story by pulling you in with the abstract of Fiji and its' sharks, and finally... delivering fully with his own personal goals within the film, and it is exactly what the title hints at; of shark and man.

This film is not just your basic run of the mill shark documentary. No sir! A lot of documentaries have come out lately where all they are is semi-decent underwater shots, terrible voice overs and zero plot lines. Of Shark and Man smashes those films to bits, and the best part about all of that is that it didn't even try, it is just naturally that amazing and awe inspiring.

The music was like nothing I have ever heard before - it made me laugh, cry, worry and it made me dance, too! It is quite refreshing to hear such tastefully created music, which I may add, was influenced by the culture and way of life of Fiji. Way to keep your film authentic, David!

The way this film blends all of the stories into one beautiful (love) story is absolute poetry. Diley is a master of his craft, and this film is even more proof of his enormous talents! We had so many emotions running through us during the entire film (this is what a good feature length does! It moves you) - happiness, sadness, shock, fear, awe... you name it! 

In our very humble opinion, this film proves to be exactly what it promised to be - real, emotional and thought provoking. Well done David, you have yet again put your money where your mouth is and You, sir, have delivered!

Photo Credit Michael Patrick O'Neill

Photo Credit Michael Patrick O'Neill


Find out more about Of Shark and Man in the following links:

Their Website: http://www.ofsharkandman.com/

Their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfSharkAndMan

Their Twitter: https://twitter.com/ofsharkandman

Also, check out Scarlet View Media: http://www.scarletviewmedia.com/

Our First Campaign of 2015 - Nursery Protection & Shark Monitoring Program: Dominican Republic

It is our absolute pleasure to announce our first (and official!) campaign of the 2015 year! 

"Sanctuary and Monitoring Program:  Dominican Republic"

The goal of this project is to finalize a set sanctuary in the city of Estero Hondo and to develop a local monitoring program for sharks in those waters. Our team is comprised of scientists, conservation leaders and award winning filmmakers. We will be working closely with the local populations to establish these goals.

Our project objectives would be:

  • Establish a finalized protection plan for nurseries used by sharks in the Dominican Republic.
  • Create a shark monitoring program with the locals in the areas to compile and keep data.
  • Document shark behavior through film and photo for conservation purposes.
  • Have ongoing local and international presentations about our work, our procedures and how this project is helping the locals and their economy.

We are in close and daily communication with government officials in the island and with many scientific researchers to make this project a total success. But, we cannot do this without YOUR help!

Hondo Estero, Dominican Republic

Hondo Estero, Dominican Republic

Please, help fund this very important campaign by following the link below. Any amount helps, and with every donation we get one step closer to our project goals. We understand that not everyone can support financially and this is why we also ask that everyone shares this blog post. The more people we reach, the higher our chances are of reaching our goals. 

Thank you for your ongoing support!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sanctuary-monitoring-program-dominican-republic/x/9858106

Update: Projects, projects and more projects!

Hey there everyone! We figured we'd take a moment and update you all on what we've been up to these past couple of weeks:

  • Currently working on grant proposals for a conservation project we have going on in the Dominican Republic (More details to come soon!)
  • Working on an expedition to Mexican waters with the very talented bunch over at Pelagic Life; the plan is to film Blues and Makos.
  • Creating a small grassroots campaign in Hawai'i where the ultimately goal is to stop souvenir shops from selling shark teeth, bellies as "gifts"

Right now, these are our three main campaigns, but we are also doing many other things as well. We hope that you guys will continue to support us and as always, feedback is appreciated!

Lemon Shark

Sharks & Tonic Immobility

We investigate the tonic immobility phenomenon, whereby a shark falls into a hypnotic trance if it is turned upside down. Although useful for scientific research, is induced shark tonic immobility being abused?

Tonic immobility, by definition, is a state of apparent paralysis that animals enter usually in response to a threat, although it has also been correlated with mating in sharks. Virtually nothing is known about its underlying neurological and physiological processes in sharks. When inducing TI, the shark is flipped straight on its back and held in that position until it is turned back. Due to this knowledge, a lot of scientists have used it to their advantage, particularly for tag insertion and measurements of the sharks. The sharks do not move or try to get away. They stay in this catatonic state until they are inverted.

While it is okay in my personal and professional opinion to place sharks in TI for the sake of scientific research or for hook removals, it is not okay to place a shark in TI so that people (paying customers or individuals) can see how “cool” it looks or so that they can take photos of it being done. The sharks do not benefit from interactions like this and should not be subjected to such pointless stressful situations. As divers, it is our duty to dive responsibly and always be respectful of marine animals. Recently, there have been quite a few viral videos of people harassing (poking, prodding, riding, hugging, grabbing, etc.) sharks while diving because they saw it being done by other “professional” divers. Several videos have also surfaced and others have been around for a long time of dive operators placing sharks under TI so that their customers can take photos with the animals. This is not okay.

TI has been beneficial for scientists to have the animals in this state while still being able to keep them in the water. A few scientific studies have been conducted and the findings suggested that TI was correlated with a “…significant depression in blood pressure and heart rate…” (Davie, et al.) in black tip reef sharks. In another study conducted on juvenile lemon sharks, findings mentioned that TI “… induced a short term reduction in ventilatory efficiency…” and “animals maintained in TI were significantly hyperglycaemic compared to those that were not” (Brooks, et al.). Not a lot of research has been done on the effects of TI on sharks, but one thing can definitely be stated and that is that proper care should always be taken when using the technique during research, tagging, measurement or hook removal (to name a few positives) on the animals.

With each person trying to upstage the next, we are beginning to lose sight of why diving was a passion in the first place. It is possible to enjoy wildlife without harassing it; poking, prodding, riding and hugging are all forms of wildlife harassment. What we all need to understand is that just because we can do something, does not mean we should. As a species, we have slowly begun to forget what it is to respect other living creatures.

Sharks are majestic, mysterious and marvellous animals that should not be feared, but lack of fear should also not be synonymous with a lack of respect. When diving with sharks, we should always proceed with caution, respect and, ultimately, keep our hands to ourselves. Diving is a wonderful activity and so many people partake in it so often and seeing sharks underwater is always an incredible experience. Nothing beats being able to see sharks in the wild, behaving naturally; sharks do not need gimmicks to be one of the coolest animals on this planet, they do that all on their own.

 

References

Brooks, Edward J., Katherine A. Sloman, Stephanie Liss, Laila Hassan-Hassanein, Andy J. Danylchuk, Steven J. Cooke, John W. Mandelman, Gregory B. Skomal, David W. Sims, and Cory D. Suski. "The Stress Physiology of Extended Duration Tonic Immobility in the Juvenile Lemon Shark, Negaprion Brevirostris (Poey 1868)."Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 409.1-2 (2011): 351-60. Print.

Davie, Peter S., Craig E. Franklin, and Gordon C. Grigg. "Blood Pressure and Heart Rate during Tonic Immobility in the Black Tipped Reef Shark,Carcharhinus Melanoptera."Fish Physiology and Biochemistry 12.2 (1993): 95-100. Print.

Henningsen, A.D., (1994). Tonic immobility in 12 elasmobranchs - use as an aid in captive husbandry. Zoo Biology, 13: 325-332

Sharks and Orcas: with Edwar Herreño

If you haven't seen the video already, Undersea Hunter Group published what is being considered as one of the coolest and rarest insights into the world of sharks and Orcas and how they interact with one another when it comes to hunting. The video shows an animal that is normally an apex predator (Tiger shark) as prey for a pod of Orcas. It is a two minute and twenty eight seconds video showing Orcas chasing, playing with and eventually killing and eating a Tiger shark in Cocos Island.


To better understand why this video is so fascinating we have to understand that Cocos Island is designated as a national park and fishing of any kind is not allowed; not that it doesn't happen, but that's for a completely different blog! Cocos Island is known for its' rich ecology and for always having an abundance of any given animal at any time. This video is one of the better highlights as to why what you see with Undersea Hunter Group, you will not see with anyone else. 

We decided to interview Edwar Herreño, the man behind the famous video, and this is what he had to say: (Spanish to English translations provided by Susana Navajas)

 STS: Please give us a bit of background on you and your work.

STS: Por favor, denos un poco de antecedentes sobre usted y su trabajo.

 EH: I was born in Colombia and there I completed my studies in Marine Biology at the University of Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano. I worked several years in Colombia in the recreational diving industry and that same passion brought me to Costa Rica in 2002. In March 2004, I did my first trip to Cocos Island and my life changed completely; in February 2005 I joined Undersea Hunter Group, where I performed more specializations in recreational diving and started my career in technical diving, for which I am now an instructor. I am a yacht Captain, an underwater photographer and videographer; I am very in love with my work and Cocos Island has been the best experience of my life.

EH: Nací en Colombia, allí realize mis estudios de Biologia Marina, graduado de la Universidad de Bogota Jorge Tadeo Lozano. Trabaje algunos años en Colombia en la industria del buceo recreativo y esa misma pasión me trajo a Costa Rica en 2002. En marzo 2004 realize mi primer viaje a Isla del Coco y mi vida cambio por completo; En febrero de 2005 me vincule con la empresa Undersea Hunter en donde realize más especializaciones en buceo recreativo y empece mi carrera en buceo tecnico del cual soy instructor. Capitan de Yate, fotografo y videógrafo submarino enamorado de mi trabajo y de Isla del Coco que ha sido la experiencia de mi vida.

STS: How did you get involved with Undersea Hunter Group?

STS: Como se involucro con Undersea Hunter Group?

EH: A good friend of mine, Miguel Sanchez, worked with them as a dive master and he was the one that connected me with the company.

EH: Un muy buen amigo mío, Miguel Sanchez, trabajo en la empresa como Dive Master y fue quien me vinculo con ellos.

STS: How often do you go out with the UHG's ships (Sea Hunter & Undersea Hunter)?

STS: Con que frecuencia usted sale con los barcos de el UHG (Sea Hunter & Undersea Hunter)?

EH: The first six years I worked full time on the boat, going on voyages of 10 - 16 days between Malpedo in Colombia and Cocos Island; then for a year I did a trip a month and then I became the Dive Officer. At the beginning of this year, I left that post and I now go on a trip every month.

EH: los primeros 6 años trabajaba tiempo completo en el barco, realizando viajes de 10 - 16 días entre Malpelo en Colombia e Isla del Coco; luego hice un año donde realice un viaje al mes y luego me convertí en el encargado de buceo (Dive Officer). A principios de el presente año sali de ese cargo y ahora realizo viajes cada mes.

STS: How often do you see Orcas in Cocos Island?

STS: Con que frecuencia ve usted Orcas en la Isla del Coco?

EH: To be honest, they're not very common. But for the past three years we have seen them during the month of September and they usually stay 1 - 2 weeks on the island.

EH: No son muy frecuentes para ser muy sincero, pero las hemos visto los últimos 3 años en los meses de Septiembre en donde se quedan de 1 - 2 semanas en la isla.

STS: What made that day different? How were the Orcas different?

STS: Que hizo ese dio diferente? Como eran las Orcas diferente?

EH: That day was very different due to the fact that it's not everyday you see Orcas hunting, killing and eating the largest predator on the island, the Tiger shark. The best thing about this experience is that we witnessed the whole process. We had seen the Orcas during the week, even saw them eating other sharks (Hammerhead sharks and Silky sharks) but we only saw a part of that action. That day with the Tiger shark we saw all of it, and I'm well aware of how lucky we were to have witnessed it.

EH: Ese día fue bastante particular ya que no todos los días vez Orcas cazando, matando y alimentandose del depredador mas grande que tiene la isla, el tiburón tigre. Lo mejor de esa experiencia es que fuimos testigos de todo el proceso. Las habíamos visto durante la semana, incluso las vimos comiendo otros tiburones (Hammerheads - Silky sharks) pero solo veiamos una parte de la acción. Ese día con el tiburón tigre vimos todo el proceso. Se que fuimos muy afortunados.

STS: Please explain, moment by moment what happened between the Orcas and the Tiger shark? Was it only one shark they ate?

STS: Explique por favor, momento a momento lo que paso entre las Orcas y el Tiburon Tigre? Fue solo un tiburon que se comieron?

EH: We left our last dive of a dive trip to the island for 7 days. Later on while aboard the Sea Hunter we saw them pass by very quickly through the bay of Chatham , as if they were chasing something. Later on they stopped by a small bay close to the island of Manuelita where we had arrived. On the surface there was a juvenile Tiger shark, roughly 2.5 meters and the Orcas had him surrounded. There were six Orcas, one male, four females and 1 baby. It seemed as if they were "playing" with the shark; while one of them distracted the shark, another bit it, or hit it with its' tail... it seemed more like a game.

I remember one of our passengers wanted to jump into the water and I was doing anything possible to keep them on the boat. The Tiger shark helped me a lot when he came towards the boat and began biting it and the motors. After that incident I asked anyone if they wanted to jump in? The pool was open, to so speak, and they all responded with 'perhaps it's not a good idea'. I also had a lot of trouble maintaining the balance of the boat due to the fact that all of the passengers were on one side of it only; at one point, we almost flipped over and I don't want to imagine what would have happened to us with that very angry Tiger shark.

Later came the male Orca, he bit the Tiger shark very hard on his pectoral fin and pushed him towards the bottom. Without a doubt he killed him. Then came two large females and they ripped off his pectoral fins. Then another female Orca arrived and pushed him even further down, where he eventually disappeared. We only saw remains on the surface, where birds ate them. The Orcas then went on their way. We only know that the Orcas ate the pectoral fins and their muscles, but we could not see if they ate everything else. 

EH: Salíamos de nuestro ultimo buceo de un viaje de buceo de 7 dias a la isla. De vuelta a Sea Hunter las vimos pasar muy rápido por la bahía de Chatam, como si estuvieran persiguiendo algo; luego se detuvieron en una pequeña bahía cerca de la Isla Manuelita donde nosotros llegamos. En superficie estaba un tiburón tigre joven, de unos 2.5 meros de largo, ellas lo tenían acorralado. habían 6 Orcas, un macho, 4 hembras y una cría. Parecía como si ellas "jugaban" con el tiburón, mientras una lo distraía, la otra le mordía, o lo golpeaba con la cola…. era más como un juego.

Me acuerdo que habían unos de nuestros pasajeros que querían tirarse al agua y yo hacia lo posible por mantenerlos en el bote. El tigre me ayudo bastante cuando vino y empezó a morder el barco y los motores. después de ese incidente le pregunte a la gente: si alguien quiere saltar? la piscina esta abierta; a lo cual me respondieron: quizás no sea una buena idea. también tuve muchos problemas en mantener el balance del barco ya que todos los pasajeros estaban de un lado, en una oportunidad casi nos volteamos, no quiero imaginar que hubiese pasado con ese tiburón tigre tan enfurecido. 

luego vino la Orca macho, el tomo al tiburón tigre y lo mordió muy fuerte por la aleta pectoral, lo empujo para abajo.lo había matado sin duda. luego vinieron dos hembras grandes y le arrancaron las aletas pectorales. Luego vino otra hembra y lo empujaron para lo profundo donde desapareció. tan solo se veían restos en superficie donde eran recogidos por las aves (fragatas). luego las Orcas siguieron su camino. Solo sabemos que se comieron las aletas pectorales y los músculos que las sostienen, pero no pudimos ver si lo comieron todo.

STS: Did anything else happen after the shark was taken to the deep and eaten?

STS: Paso algo mas despues de que el tiburon fue llevado a la profundidad y se lo comieron?

EH: We couldn't see anything. We're not sure if they ate the shark, or gave it to the juveniles to "play" with. The pod of Orcas went on their way and the birds continued to eat what was left behind by the Orcas.

EH: No pudimos ver nada. no estamos seguros si lo comieron o lo dieron a la cría para que "jugara" con el. El grupo de Orcas siguió su camino y las aves (fragatas) los seguían alimentándose de los desperdicios que dejaban en su camino.

STS: Have you ever had any other experiences in the wild with Orcas hunting (specifically sharks)?

STS: Ha tenido otras experiencias en la naturaleza con Orcas cazando (tiburones especificamente)?

EH: In the past years I had seen them on the island and one time I saw them with a Silky shark in its' mouth. This week I had actually had an experience with them. I saw a male, a female and their juvenile which had a "piece of meat" in its' mouth; they passed very close to me and at that point the juvenile threw its' "toy" in front of me. I got closer to investigate and I realized it was a sharks' fetus, probably from a Silky shark. As a marine biologist I am positive it was a fetus because they are very specific (Caudal fin slightly bent and very large eyes). The mother had probably killed a pregnant shark, and then took the fetus out and gave it to the juvenile to play with. Within a matter of seconds, the mother and the juvenile came back for the "toy", and I backed off. The mother took it and gave it to the juvenile, they both the disappeared into the blue. The male was much more shy and was only seen from the surface.

EH: en años anteriores las había visto en la Isla, una vez la vi con un tiburón sedoso en la boca. Esta semana ya había tenido un encuentro con ellas. me había encontrado con un Macho, una hembra y su cría la cual tenia un "pedazo de carne" que llevaba en la boca, pasaron cerca de mi y la cría tiro su "juguete" en frente mío. Yo me acerque para verlo y me di cuenta que era el feto de un tiburón, probablemente de un tiburón sedoso. Como biólogo marino estoy seguro que era un feto ya que son muy particulares (aleta caudal ligeramente doblada y ojos bien grandes). seguramente la madre había matado a un tiburón preñado, saco el feto para darselo a su cría para que jugara. Al cabo de unos segundos, madre y cría se devolvieron por el "juguete", yo me hice para atras. La madre lo recogio y se lo dio a la cria. las dos desaparecieron en el azul. el macho fue mucho mas tímido y solo lo vimos en superficie.

STS: Up to today, and other than this particular moment, what has been your favorite moment while diving in Cocos Island?

STS: Hasta el dia de hoy, y que no sea este momento en particular, cual ha sido su momento favorito durante el buceo en la Isla del Coco? 

EH: I don't think the island will ever stop surprising us, it's the best part of my job. Each trip is different and there is always something new. I will never tire of diving with 600 - 1000 Hammerheads above my head, that is very special. However, I will always remember the day that I got to swim with 7 Tiger sharks for several days; they simply would not leave, and would swim all around me. I will also never forget the time I saw 2 Tiger sharks killing and eating a sea turtle. Also, the day that a Galapagos shark attacked a Hammerhead shark and took a big chunk out of it. Not long ago, during a night dive I saw a Galapagos shark attack a White Tip Reef shark; he wanted to eat him but the White Tip got away, but of course, with a rather large bite! I especially love Baitballs, I also love seeing the Dolphins having breakfast (they follow the Bigeye Jacks so they throw up, and they then eat that). There are so many beautiful experiences. It is a very unique and amazing spot - it is magical, and I am very fortunate to work there.

EH: Creo que Jamas la isla dejara de sorprendernos, esa es la mejor parte de mi trabajo. Todos los viajes son diferentes y siempre hay algo nuevo. No me cansare de bucear con 600 o 1000 Hammerheads encima de mi cabeza, eso es muy especial. Claro que siempre recordare un día que bucie con 7 tiburones tigres por un par de días, ellos simplemente no se iban y pasaban por todos lados. tampoco se me olvidara el día que vi como 2 tigres mataban y se alimentaban de una tortuga. tampoco el dia que un tiburon de galapago ataco y le pego un mordisco bien grande a un tiburon martillo. hace poco, en un buceo nocturno vi un tiburon galapago atacar a un White tip reef shark, lo queria comer pero este pudo escapar; claro, con una mordida bien grande! Me gustan mucho los Baitballs, también me gusta ver los delfines desayunando en las mañanas (persiguen los big eye jacks para que vomiten y luego lo comen). hay muchas experiencias lindas. Es un sitio único - mágico y yo soy muy afortunado en trabajar allí.

STS: Do you have any additional footage that was not shown? If so, may we show it exclusively to Save the Sharks supporters? Crediting you and Undersea Hunter Group, of course!

STS: Tiene usted algun material adicional que no se ha mostrado? Si es asi, podemos mostrar en exclusiva a los partidarios de Save the Sharks? Acreditando a usted y Undersea hunter group, por supuesto!

EH: At the time when the Tiger shark got attacked I don't have good images, the truth is I had to sacrifice myself in order to maintain the security and the sanity at the moment on the boat. My skiff driver was in shock, and I had to drive the vessel at certain times. I have a photo of the fetus that the juvenile Orca had, and I can definitely share that with you.

EH: En el momento que paso el ataque del tigre no tengo buenas imágenes, la verdad es que tuve que sacrificarme para guardar la seguridad y la calma en este momento. Mi panguero estaba en shock y hasta tuve que manejar el bote en algunos momentos. Tengo una foto del feto que llevaban las Orcas, esa si la puedo compartir. 

 

We hope that you all enjoyed this 'Behind The Scenes' information as much as we did! 
If you still haven't seen the video that inspired this blog, be sure to check it out here: http://vimeo.com/105756171
You can also check out Undersea Hunter Group at: www.underseahunter.com

Alternatives to Shark Catch and Kill Charters

In today's modern world there are many ways to show ones' love for the ocean without having such negative, catastrophic and dead-end impacts on it and on its' inhabitants. 'Mark the Shark' Quartiano is one of the people that need to be brought into the limelight for constantly creating negative turbulence and for proudly helping in the depletion of shark populations, all in the name of a good time. 

 This particular person runs a fishing charter business that, amongst other animals, kills sharks – even though they've been told several times to please practice other more ocean friendly alternatives. Some of the sharks that he makes a habit of catching and killing are Hammerhead sharks, usually Scalloped Hammerheads. "Hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae) exhibit extremely specialized traits and complex behaviors that have increased their vulnerability to human exploitation, which impedes conservation efforts." (Gallagher, et. al. 2014)

"Shark Jaws for Sale" inside Mr. Quartiano's office.

"Shark Jaws for Sale" inside Mr. Quartiano's office.

 With information like this and so much more like it, it would be very wise for Mr. Mark Quartiano to begin different practices other than catch and kill. It has also been noted and studied that one quarter of sharks and rays "...are threatened according to IUCN Red List criteria due to overfishing (targeted and incidental)." (Dulvy, et. al. 2014) That plainly translates to one fourth of the shark and ray populations are threatened, or endangered. These statistics are only an extremely small fraction of the science that's out there and with this kind of overwhelming information Mr. Quartiano really should practice other more sustainable fishing options (i.e. catch and release), so that he and his clients may still have sharks to see in the future.

 Dead Tiger shark on cover of magazine, inside Mr. Quartiano's office.

 There are also even more sustainable activities like diving, snorkeling, catch and release, shark watching tours and all of these help boost the business, the economy and the environment. It is not a surprise that shark (friendly) based tourism can do more for a country's environment and economy than catch and kill practices can. In Fiji, it has been estimated that "...direct taxes from shark divers in 2010 were approximately US $5.9 million." (Vianna, et. al. 2011) That's not all, there can also be indirect perks from the shark tourism based companies such as better salaries to the locals, a more fruitful economy and of course, thriving reef systems due to healthy shark populations.

Mr. Quartiano's office and chair.

 This post is to openly ask Mr. Quartiano to at least consider chartering catch and release trips, and not just catch and kill. Please keep in mind that when you kill a shark, you are killing a migratory species that takes a long time to mature, usually has few young and is responsible for balancing other marine creatures' populations. You are also killing an animal that doesn't only live in South Florida waters, so essentially you are taking away someone else's right to have possibly seen that animal in the wild. Please, be considerate of others because we all want to see sharks alive, not thrashing, bloodied and dead on your boat. Thank you.

South Florida Freedivers Talk - 2013

On May 9th, 2013 Save the Sharks founder, Susana Navajas, met with the South Florida Freedivers group at Whiskey Joe's Bar in Miami, to give a small presentation and talk about shark conservation. Ms. Navajas was invited by Manuel Menendez and introduced by Manny Dobal of the South Florida Freedivers to discuss her conservation work history, all having to do with sharks. 

The talk was brief and to the point about Susana's work in the conservation field and it was also a warm welcome to Save the Sharks from all of the individuals whom were present at the event. There was a Q&A after the talk and at the end of the night Susana was able to chat to the locals, and members of the freedivers organization about sharks and what each person does to help stabilize shark populations. Some mentioned doing photography and videography, and others mentioned in helping out with state specific scientific tag programs that help in the balancing out of shark populations. 

Susana Navajas, Founder - Save the Sharks

Susana Navajas, Founder - Save the Sharks

 

"Being able to talk to like minded people about the work I've done in the conservation field was quite a wonderful feeling. I got to share my experiences about CITES, helping to pass laws that protect sharks, and my own small works with getting restaurants to get shark fin soup off the menu. It was a fun night with interesting people and I am looking forward to doing more positive work with Save the Sharks!" Said Susana about the event she was invited to speak at.

Manuel and some freedivers at the Q&A event after Susana's talk.

Manuel and some freedivers at the Q&A event after Susana's talk.

 *Anyone wanting to contact the South Florida Freedivers can check their facebook at (https://www.facebook.com/SouthFloridaFreedivers) or email them at (fishhavefeelings@hotmail.com) and be sure to keep checking our facebook page at (https://www.facebook.com/savethesharks) for more upcoming events, news & updates!)