A group of environmentalists have petitioned the federal government to put West Coast Great White Sharks as an endangered species. From an L.A. Times article:
The northeastern Pacific Ocean population of great whites is genetically distinct and in danger of extinction, according to the petition. Researchers have estimated that there are about 340 individuals in the group that are mature or nearly so.
“There could be fewer than 100 breeding females left,” said Geoff Shester, the California program director of Oceana, an international group focused on protecting the world’s oceans.
Wow, just a few hundred of these guys out there. Even though the ocean is a huge place, that small number would probably still inspire enormous fear in people, despite the extreme rarity of shark attacks.
Does this sound like an Indiana Jones adventure or what!
Two archaeologists deep in the jungles of Guatemala are searching the lost empire of El Zotz, an ancient Maya city-state. First, they discover Diablo’s Pyramid, a 45-foot tall royal palace that is 1600 years old.
Then, they spot another building but it’s buried deep in the jungle. Two years later they have it uncovered (ok, that is not-so adventurous but realistic archaeological work), and find beyond the overgrowth some devilish faces, from the National Geographic article:
The sides of the temple are decorated with 5-foot-tall stucco masks showing the face of the sun god changing as he traverses the sky over the course of a day.
One mask is sharklike, likely a reference to the sun rising from the Caribbean in the east, Houston said.
The noonday sun is depicted as an ancient being with crossed eyes who drank blood, and a final series of masks resemble the local jaguars, which awake from their jungle slumbers at dusk.
The Mayans sure were fascinated with power, death, and the sun.
This week, several great white sharks were spotted off the coast of Chatham, Mass., and two more near Cape Cod were swimming just 30 feet from the shore. One of the sharks was measured at 12 to 15 feet.
The summer months induce a chain reaction for shark sightings: Warm ocean temperatures entice more gray seals to the New England shores, and with more seals come more sharks.
The sharks have been paying more attention to New England the past few years because of the larger concentrations of gray seals, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries Researcher Greg Skomal said. The gray seal population off Cape Cod has grown from 10,000 to over 300,000 ever since environmental regulations were put in place to protect the seals.
The United States averages 16 shark attacks each year, with only one fatality every two years. According to the International Shark Attack File, you have a higher chance of being struck by lightning, which kills about 41 people a year.
Zimmerman said there hasn’t been a confirmed shark attack in Massachusetts since 1936.
An electronic ID tag from a rare shark spotted off the (San Diego) county coast in June has popped to the surface near Hawaii, providing local marine researchers with an unprecedented look into the long-distance movements of the second-largest known fish.
“I would characterize it as an avalanche of data,” said Van Sommeran said Monday.
Basking sharks have almost disappeared from the West Coast, but biologists at the National Marine Fisheries Service in La Jolla found two last year and outfitted them with satellite-based tracking devices in hopes of learning more about where they roam.
Agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States are trying to safeguard basking sharks, which once gathered near the coastline by the hundreds or thousands. In recent years, however, sightings have dwindled and biologists have speculated that as few as 300 swim along the West Coast.
While basking sharks have gaping mouths and can grow up to 40 feet, they aren’t a threat to people. They are filter feeders that consume large volumes of zooplankton.