shark oceanDid you know that sharks play a role in mitigating Climate Change? Let me show you how . . .

Like good insurance policies, Sharks as Apex predators are directly and indirectly in charge of the health of the ecosystems they patrol. They influence the distribution, behaviour and abundance of their prey and they affect other predator-prey interactions too. They protect fish species from being decimated by mid-range predators, they even protect coral reefs by indirectly protecting algae-eating fish (algae suffocate coral).

When sharks are over-harvested, it literally throws the whole ecosystem out of sync and has an impact on climate change.

Today I will focus on the relationship between Tiger Sharks, Green Turtles and Seagrass to demonstrate one vital role sharks play in the carbon cycle.

But first, allow me to lay down some information foundations…

 

We have all seen them, and most of us have used them, but do we know exactly what they are? Allow me to introduce to you, the Mighty Microbead…

 

plastic 1Microbeads are small plastic particles (<2 millimetres) and they come in an array of bright and consumer-catching-colours.  Most people have no idea that these pretty little beads are balls of plastic. If you see any Poly-ingredients in your chosen product, then you’re cleansing with plastic and obliviously contributing to plastic pollution in the environment.

Microbeads are found in a plethora of home and beauty products, such as: facial cleansers and exfoliators, shower gels, toothpastes and laundry detergents.

They are sometimes included in “age-defying” makeup (yes, you’re plastering over your wrinkles with plastic!), lip gloss and nail polish.


When it comes to social media, we have all heard the catch phrases of “trending”; “selfies” etc. But this latest trend leaves me cold with disgust and volcanic with anger. There seems to be this growing trend where animals are being plucked from their natural environment and used as selfie-props, in blatant disregard of the well-being of the animals. How many more animals have to be tortured and killed, all for an egotistical boost on social media, before something is done? How many more animals need to suffer before there is a miraculous mind-shift in our ever trendy humanity?

If you could go back in time and look at the first, unremarkable prehistoric sharks of the Devonian period (about 400 million years ago) you would never guess that their descendants would become such dominant creatures, holding their own against vicious aquatic reptiles like pliosaurs and mosasaurs and going on to become the "apex predators" of the world's oceans.

We have all heard of them, but here’s a little more detail for you . . .

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is known as the best season to view Great White Sharks. Here in Gansbaai, we have sharks all-year-round, but Winter is still traditionally considered as the best season. There are a few contributing factors, such as the fact that there are more sharks hanging around Shark Alley during Winter, the water visibility improves and the water temperature is a few degrees warmer than in Summer. Thanks to the Great White Shark’s rete mirabile, they are able to raise their body temperature about 10’C warmer than that of the surrounding water, which in layman’s terms relates to the sharks being a little lazy when the water is cold and when the water is warmer, they feel a little friskier. The big males make their appearance in winter, just in time for the Cape Fur Seal pups to take their first plunge into the Atlantic and test their aquatic skills. Generally, we see more females than males during Summer and more adult males during Winter.

Cosmetics and skincare go hand in hand and it’s something that the fairer sex can rarely live without. It’s packaged in beautiful colours with promising words, but there's an ugly truth hidden in many cosmetic and beauty products - an ugly reality that most of us are oblivious of:

1. Effective up to 25 meters

2. 10 times greater than humans in clear water

3. Eyes very similar to humans – cornea , lens, retina, iris, pupil

4. Contains rods and cones so can detect colour and see in low light – new research (2011) shows not all sharks have the same cones cells, bull sharks cannot see in colour.

5. Tapetum lucidum – detects very small amounts of light which is why they can see in very murky water

6. Can see out of the water as well – pupil dilation

7. Iris is a vivid blue colour

8. Nictitating membrane (eye lid) lacking in great whites so they roll their eye back for protection

 

Currently, shark fins are allowed to be separated at sea, but the rest of the carcass must be kept on the same vessel and the total volume of fins has to be five percent of the total weight of bodies on board. But the manager of WWF's global shark and ray initiative, Ian Campbell, says this system can be easily gamed, as it's difficult to enforce.

Is it my imagination or is this year just accelerating at a manic pace? It feels as if I’ve only just recovered from the Reindeers and singing Santas, only to have my New Year’s resolutions accosted by defiant chocolate bunnies around every corner! 
1But the chocolate bunnies are also an indication that winter is on its way and that means Shark Season! Blessed as we are here in Gansbaai to have Great White Sharks in our waters all year round, winter remains the best time of year to view Great Whites and here’s why: The water, believe it or not, is actually a few degrees warmer than it is in summer, which makes the sharks a little friskier and the water visibility is much better too – double bonus!

Tom Tom: We are delighted to inform you that White Shark Projects now have two Toms on board. Both are biologists and both are complete shark FINatics!
 Tom Slough is the man on board who will answer all those high tech shark questions you have (that Shark Week just does not answer). He could swim before he could walk and has realized his childhood dream of working with sharks. He lives by the Confucius quote: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

3Tom loves talking to clients and sharing his passion and knowledge with them. Tom Violon, a.k.a T-Bone, has temporarily made Shark Team his research vessel as he collects data for his Masters. He is focusing his Masters on Great White Shark scars, exploring the possibility that there might be a pattern and seasonality to these scars. Tom loves being on board Shark Team, getting his daily fix of shark sightings, which fulfills his lifetime fascination with sharks. Tom is enjoying the differences between France and South Africa and really loves to braai.
So over the next few months, clients will have the added advantage of having Tom2 on board. And ladies, if you would like to see some eye- candy, uhm sorry, I mean sharks, I suggest that you schedule your shark dive experience today! 

I am happy and grateful to report that the sharks have been amazing over the last couple of weeks: just this past Saturday our vessel was surrounded by 12 majestic Great Whites, all showing off and vying for the focus of the GoPros bobbing in the cage. Except for this big fella who came past on Sunday morning, he was completely laid back, cruising up to the cage and slowly opening his mouth (gaping) as if to show off his pearly whites to the squealing divers in the cage. I’m sure if you had shark hearing you would have picked up the reggae vibes he was clearly listening to. Stingrays are clocking up their frequent flyer miles too, much to the delight of our on-board clients.

2

Walker Bay seems to be teeming with life and whenever you cast your eyes over the ocean, it seems to be boiling with activity. Bait fish don’t stand a chance as Bryde’s whales, common dolphins and seals jostle for position to grab a mouthful. Gannets and cormorants bombard the fish from above at supersonic speed, while gulls bob on the surface happy to clean up the scraps. This is marine life at its best and we have the front row seats!

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