Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Studies from a Biogeochemist. Great White Shark Diet

"My research spans across biogeochemistry, paleontology, and ecology. I ask questions to better understand ecological & evolutionary responses to environmental change on a variety of time scales."

- Dr. Sora Lee Kim

We were extremely interested in Dr. Kim's research and insight into the feeding behavior of Great White Sharks along the California coast.  Below are a few questions posed to her by Adam Hecht.

Q. What is your primary special area of marine biology expertise?

A: I'm an interdiscplinary researcher. I'm a hybrid marine biologist bio-geochemist.

Q. Are you currently engaged in elasmobranch field research?  Bench research?  Can we cite any recent publications?  What are they?

A: Most of what I do is biochemistry.  Most of my shark research has to do with modern species that are alive right now.   My background is primarily biogeochemistry.

Q. It seems that after the passage of AB 376 here in California, awareness about finning increased and the momentum has continued and now has reached a global platform.  What have been your observations? 

A: More people have become aware of shark fining practices in the last ten years. In 2005, I did field work in Baja California Sur. I heard from graduate students that a shark fishery there closed for a few months out of the year. I think that it is due to public pressure.  Not necessarily Baja California Sur but due to a larger scale.

Q. Are you concerned about global shark populations?  

A: Yes. There have been studies done in the past 5-7 years on the populations of the larger sharks showing that larger sharks are being decimated; especially areas that have fisheries. A study done in 2006 shown, that the apex predator populations are declining while the smaller sharks have been increasing. 

Q: What do you think is the single greatest threat facing sharks today?

A: I think it is a variety of things. Part of it is direct fishing pressure on sharks, habitat destruction and climate change. As humans, we are destroying shark habitats at such a rapid pace, who knows if sharks will be able to cope with that.

Q: Are unprovoked attacks due to an increased shark population? A decrease in natural food sources?

A:  I don't think we have a good handle on the great white shark population numbers are off the California Coast. From the literature I read, there are more sightings because there are more people today along the California coast compared to the 1970s. People are spending more time in the water, there are more boats in the water. As a result, more people are keeping an eye out for sharks. I have to hesitate to say that the white shark population is in fact increasing.
I recently published a paper that was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle showing that sharks diet is quite varied. We have this idea that all sharks eat mammals such as seals and seal lions for part of the year. From the results of the study, they actually have a diverse diet. They also feed on fish and squid. Another aspect of the study is that we looked 15 different sharks throughout their lifetime by looking at their isotopic levels. We were able to take a snap shot of their diet by year.  There is a slight increase in their isotopic levels after 1986. 1986 is when marine mammals at least doubled since 1972. In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed which made it illegal for fisherman to hunt seal and seal lions. Those populations did increase. The diet didn't shift very much. I don't think their natural food sources are declining given that marine mammals are protected under law. Through the years marine mammal populations have held steady or increased.
Q: Are humans on the great white shark diet? 

A: No, White Sharks have evolved at least 10 million years ago. Where humans fit in on that time scale is just a blip. If you look at a lot of the shark attack reports, usually humans are bitten but not eaten. Humans are not on the diet of a great white shark. 

Q: You must receive many questions about shark.  What do you see as the top misconceptions?

A: People view them as a vicious apex predatory. I do not think that's true at all.  I think that has been spread by the popular media. Also, their is a misconception that all white sharks are apex predators. From our research, it appears that some are content eating fish and squid. They don't necessarily have to eat at the top of the food chain.
Often times all sharks are considered equal. That is not true. Different sharks play different roles in the ecosystem. There is still alot in shark ecology that is unknown including what they are eating, where they are going and the population numbers.
White sharks are a head of the curve in terms of what we know because they are so popular and people are interested in them.  

Below please find an abstract of Dr. Kim's original Great White Shark diet and movement study.  To read the entire journal publication, please click on hyperlink.

Diet and movement patterns of white sharks

White sharks were once considered coastal species that mainly consumed marine mammals. Recent satellite tagging data from TOPP demonstrated annual long distance migrations from the California coast to an offshore region. Although white sharks predate on pinnipeds near coastal rookeries, their offshore diet is not well understood. The analysis of white shark tissues (i.e., vertebrae and muscle) offers insight to long-term dietary pattern. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Malibu escape continues..

Welcome to Malibu, California 

It's into my second week here in Malibu and I am completely in love with this amazing place and its fabulous welcoming people. The sun continues to shine both in the sky and in my heart!

My home from home here in Malibu
My daily commute
At the start of the week, I moved from my cute hotel to the dreamiest cottage ever! Georgienne kindly helped me move into my new home and we were both blown away by the cottage, the location and wonderful owners Diane and Mathias (& their darling dogs and chickens). They could not have been more welcoming or helpful!!! I have been here several nights now, and the quietness from the usual sounds I am used to is heavenly. Getting out of my car at night, I am welcomed only by the dreamy sounds of crickets and the gentle breeze in the pine trees. Its so peaceful and close to nature; perfect! You should see my commute to the Sea Save office; believe me it's beats my usual morning route! The A13 back home has no mountains, pine trees or ocean views...

Helping Sea Save continues to be fun, interesting and rewarding. Georgienne and Jen are so lovely and Jay has decided to talk with a British accent, which cracks me up. Though a lot of fun, marine conservation is a very important issue, so we are all working hard on our projects.  It is important to note that volunteering for a marine conversation group is not all about 'freeing Willy'. To really make a difference and protect our beautiful oceans, there is lot of  brainstorming, meetings, planning, fundraising and grant writing.  These may seem like dry items, but this is the true work behind marine conservation and is essential to supporting our key conservation projects. Also there are the really difficult tasks such as going to local parties with California "surfer dudes"! Tough job, but someone has to do it! :)

We have made a lot of progress as a team this week on some of key projects including our exciting auction, planning and marketing of our amazing diving expedition to the beautiful Cocos Island in January 2013 and the launching of our FIN project (aimed at continuing our efforts to put a stop to shark fining). Sea Save Foundation members are just the best!
So my second week continues with making new friends (including the cute squirrel I see each morning outside my cottage), making a difference as I work to save our oceans and loving this beautiful place. I am truly blessed...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Mornings In Malibu

Malibu Climate Conditions:

High Temperature: 79
Sea Temperature: 66
Surf: 1-2  Feet
Shark Sightings in Malibu: None.

According to the Malibu Times, the Malibu Lagoon project deadline for state contractors ends this Wednesday, October 31st.

Author: Adam

- "Mother Nature needs her vital signs checked just as much as humans do."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reflections of the Day :)

Life is such a beach!

Malibu inspiration

The Ocean
As I walked carefree along the beach,
The Malibu sun warmed my heart.
The ocean raced timidly around my feet,

And the seagulls flew in gentle art.
I reached down to touch the warm water,
But it quickly moved away as if afraid.
Back to the safety of the ocean deep,
Away from my hand and the connection made.

Do not fear me, I thought within my soul,
Not all man wants to endanger you.
For I feel your strength in my very being,
My heart sees your beauty true.

To me you are gentle yet ruthlessly strong,
A respect I feel with very pulse.
Full of magnificent, graceful creatures,
A mesmerizing, majestic blue life giving force.

Why we humans exploit you, I'll never know.
Remove the beauty from your depth.
See you as just another element to commercialise,
destroying you as your soul wept.

You seemed to understand not to fear,
For around me your waters again gently played,
Waves of joy strengthening your heart,

Your wariness and distrust beginning to fade.
With Reike love I sent our oceans peace,
Praying that we will, our oceans and sea save.
In turn to save us from our own shortsightedness,
And love our oceans and the life the gave.

By Lynda Whitbread

........ and inspired by a Malibu Monday morning ....

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Malibu Escape

I am here in Malibu, California! That is a statement I never thought I would be lucky enough to say.

Armed with my iPad, I have arrived in Malibu!
This week has been fantastic and so rewarding. Monday was all about traveling (11 hour flight from Heathrow to LAX) and settling in at this really cute hotel; the Malibu Country Inn.
Georgienne from Sea Save Foundation met me at the airport. She is so lovely and made me feel right at home from the off. Thanks G!!! As for Malibu, what can you say but simply stunning!

Tuesday was my first full day. Though Georgienne was more than happy for me to have a few days to rest and acclimatise, I was so excited, keen to get going and simply felt so alive, that I went straight into volunteering for Sea Save. Georgienne and I spent the day reviewing current projects and discussing ideas for going forward. We commenced breaking down the projects into associated tasks and assigning priorities. The day was informative, rewarding and it wonderful for me to use my PM skills for ocean conservation. Tuesday happened to be my birthday also, so Georgienne kindly took me out for a wonderful birthday dinner which was great. See the life of a volunteer is not all work.

The rest of the week has continued to be just as interesting and fun. I have meet some of the rest of the gang, Jen, Jay, Susana & Sherry. All of them lovely and welcoming. So relaxed and happy am I here, that I have even, albeit by accident, invented the 'happy shark dance' which has Georgienne in fits of laughter.

I knew Sea Save was amazing but I never knew, until now, just how much. They are simply lovely with a pure aim to help our oceans. This, together with beautiful Malibu, friendly residents and the beautiful sunny weather, life is just fabulous! Like the name of the cocktail I was drinking under the stars on Wednesday night, this is definitely my 'Malibu Escape'. Loving it!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Mornings in Malibu

Malibu Climate Conditions:

High Temperature: 85
Sea Temperature: 68
Surf: 1-2  Feet
Shark Sightings in Malibu: None.

More shark sightings in local waters are due to more people in the water, a protected great white population and people vigilant in reporting. Article

Author: Adam

- "Mother Nature needs her vital signs checked just as much as humans do."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Malibu Migration - Beginning my Two Month Adventure as a Sea Save Volunteer

Just over a year ago, I finally joined the social media age, not having any idea where it would lead. For it was through Twitter, I became aware of the amazing Sea Save Foundation. Initially a follower, now I am able and very excited to say that I am a volunteer for them. 

During the past 6 months, I have been lucky enough to oversee the important Wave Rave 2012 project which took place on August 25th & 26th of this year. With the need to spread the importance of ocean awareness and protection, it was essential to get as many hosts around the world as possible to hold event.  We got in excess of 250 global hosts which was simply fantastic!!! However as amazing that this was, it was being able to tell my family, friends and colleagues about Sea Save and all that they do, and seeing their wonderful response, which really gave me joy.  Just by dedicating a bit of time to this wonderful organisation and essential cause I was making a difference and in itself, this is rewarding. After all saving our oceans, means saving us; what could be more important?

Therefore when I was granted a 3 month career break from my work, I knew that I wanted to use this time, not only for some well earned ‘R & R’ but to do something I am passionate about; the environment.  With my strong relationship with Sea Save, I could not think of any other organisation that I wanted to help more.  So I am off soon to Malibu, California with my suitcase of clothes, toiletries, Union flag beach towel (present from my wonderful colleagues) and such an excited feeling!  To be honest, I am a little nervous too but know this is the right and best thing for me to do.  The flights are booked and a beautiful sweet cottage (my home from home) is arranged. The countdown is on!

Being a volunteer for a great cause is a joy; making a difference no matter how small is best thing anyone can do. Being a Sea Save volunteer is an amazing joy, and something I am truly grateful for.  During my trip to the US, I plan to issue regular blogs covering my life and experiences there and hopefully offer an insight into being a Sea Save volunteer.  You are all invited to follow my adventures...


Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Mornings in Malibu

Malibu Climate Conditions:

High Temperature: 74
Sea Temperature: 68
Surf: 2-3  Feet
Shark Sightings: None.

According to new research, great white sharks feed on different prey depending on their age. Great White Feeding Patterns

Author: Adam

- "Mother Nature needs her vital signs checked just as much as humans do."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

CITES, What is it and what do they do? Part 2/2.

So, now you're a CITES professional and you know all there is to know about them, right? Maybe! 

CITES will be meeting on March 3-14, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand for their 16th meeting, and during this meeting a variety of amendments and proposals will be discussed and voted on. One of those will be a proposal by Costa Rica, which was also co-sponsored by Programa de Restauracion de Tortugas (PRETOMA), Fundacion Marviva, Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and a few others. In September, Costa Rica (along with the others named) brought the initial amendment to light to get Scalloped Hammerheads under Appendix III, and under that Appendix they will receive protection (in at least one country) 90 days after Sept. 25, 2012. Under Appendix III (if you remember from the first blog) any country can unilaterally place a native species in it, no voting needed.

What will happen now is that during the upcoming meeting, the proposal to get Hammerheads protected will be voted on, and if approved (a 2/3 vote is needed) Hammerhead sharks will be placed within Appendix II; which gives them a tremendous amount more protection. If approved, the export of Hammerheads would be regulated in whole, parts and derivatives. Back in 2010 the United States and Palau tried to get Hammerheads protected under Appendix II, but the 2/3 of the votes was not achieved. 

Sea Save would like to attend this upcoming meeting in March. We would like to be there and vote in favor of Hammerheads (of course, along with other animals) but, it's not that easy. Susana Navajas of Sea Save was interviewed earlier last week about this issue and about CITES and sharks. 

Here's the interview:

And, here's a photo of the interview:
Susana Navajas of Sea Save getting interviewed Via Skype.

Now, let's all ask ourselves what we can do - 'what can we do?!'
Let's make a list, shall we?

  1. Check out this blog (Enjoy!)
  2. Spread the blog; Share and make sure to comment!
It's THAT simple! So, let's get to helping to save some sharks!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Mornings in Malibu

Malibu Climate Conditions:

High Temperature: 93
Sea Temperature: 69
Surf: 2-3  Feet
Shark Sightings: None.

The Huffington Post has an ARTICLE about the protection of great white sharks along the Pacific Ocean.

Author: Adam

- "Mother Nature needs her vital signs checked just as much as humans do."