Swimmer in Bora Bora Bear Hugs Shark and Goes For a Ride

We are continuing to see an increase in the number of videos coming out showing people riding sharks. So many in fact that we now have an index for it on the blog: Riding a Shark.

The early videos were usually put out by individuals who had years of experience around sharks.  In most of those cases, they would acknowledge that there was risk involved but they were able to minimize that risks due to their understanding of shark behavior and their ability to read the animals.

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But this new growing trend is with ordinary folks spotting a shark and then deciding to have a go.  In the video below which just came out, vacationers in Bora Bora were having a good time swimming with some lemon sharks when a few of the swimmers decided it was time to go for a ride (22 second mark).  But the one guy shown in the video takes it to a whole new level when he swings around to the bottom of the shark, gives it a bear hug and and hangs on as the shark swims.  With his head just below the shark’s mouth, he rides it for several seconds before finally letting go (28 second mark).

According to Grant Murdock who posted the video, he too rode a shark and noted that the sharks didn’t appear to mind and that it was like an “outer body experience.”

Specifically he described the encounter as such, “I wish somebody was able to record my swim of this nature, but sadly i did not have the presence of mind to record myself doing this same action. The Sharks were so gentle and accepting of our advances. They didn’t seem to mind at all that we were riding for free. It was as close to an out of body experience that I have ever felt. Thank you Sharky”

So what do you think, is the growing practice of riding sharks going too far?  Weigh in on our Facebook page.

Our ‘shark rider’ story posted in Slate Magazine.

Sperm Whale Explodes in Faroe Islands

Sperm whale explodes in Faroe Islands

In the bizarre video of the week department, we have this one from the Faroe Islands featuring…you guessed it, an exploding whale.

Apparently this sperm whale died of natural causes in the Faroe Islands. When a man was attempting to open it up by its stomach, a large decomposition gas pocket erupted nearly showering him with whale innards. We can only imagine that the smell was much worse than the visual.

The Faroe Islands is known for having an annual whale hunt called the grindadráp in Faroes where nearly a 1,000 long-finned pilot whales are killed for their meat and blubber.  The hunt is considered by many Faroese to be an important part of their history and culture but many other people view it is barbaric and unnecessary.

Video posted by Johan Joensen and is 14 seconds in length.  Photo is a screenshot.
PS.  As the title indicates, it’s gross.

Photos Emerge of Great White Being Gaffed and Landed in South Africa

Anglers land great white shark in South Africa

Photos of two fishermen apparently landing & gaffing a great white shark in the Mossel Bay area of South Africa is causing a growing outcry in social media circles.

Since 1991, it has been illegal in South African waters to catch or even attempt to catch great whites. If an angler accidentally hooks a white, he must release it as soon as he identifies it as a great white.  This typically means cutting the line.

The photos were apparently taken a couple of weeks ago and were posted on Facebook and on the forum Sealine, a South African angling and boating forum, on November 16th. From that moment, the circulation of the photos spread as they were shared on various social networks.
Anglers land great white shark in South Africa

In scanning the two Sealine threads discussing the photos (White shark caught…not cool! and Nico Munro and John Winter of Mossel Bayd killing great white shark) , it is quite clear that all the contributors feel that the two anglers were wrong and should be prosecuted if the facts bear out. There is some disagreement as to whether the shark was ultimately killed but several posters pointed out that the way the shark was gaffed and dragged onto the rocks most certainly assured that it would not survive if they indeed released the shark. [Note: we are not directly naming anyone in the photos as we have not confirmed their identity.]

Anglers land great white shark in South Africa

The release of these photos is drawing comparisons to the Leon Bekker incident where he was photographed in March 2011 landing a great white on the rocks in Mossel Bay (see below).  The photos of Mr. Bekker were widely circulated and there was a strong public outcry calling for his prosecution.  Mr Bekker was tried and found guilty.  He was sentenced to one year in jail or being fined R120,000. The sentence was suspended for five years.

Several shark conservationist organizations have stated that they have submitted these news photos along with the supposed angler’s names to the Department of Environment asking that they open an investigation.  It is unclear at this time if any action has been taken.

Quite a few of the posters on Sealine are also recreational shark fisherman.  Many have weighed in saying that they follow all fishing regulations and adhere to the best practices when landing legal sharks. Their concern is that these images will hurt honest fishermen by helping drive a new wave of restrictive shark fishing regulations. BlouwaterBaair states, “It’s idiots like these two that make fishing for the rest of the community a nightmare.”

One poster, Graig V. cautions that everyone should keep their emotions in check and not use these photos as an excuse to have a trail by media. He adds that “this must be taken to court and sorted out there. Stirring up emotions helps nothing and if anything will get somebody to do something silly and get the whole case thrown out of court.”

Leon Bekker lands great white in South Africa – March 2011

Others argue that having the photos widely circulated will help create pressure on the authorities to take action.

No matter what develops from these photos, it is clear from reading the Sealine forums that both the anglers and conservationists view the laws and regulations protecting our natural resources as important. There is mutual agreement that if someone chooses not to adhere to the law, then there needs to be consequences.

And whether any consequences do materialize in this case, that remains to be seen.  But Frank22 reminds us that no matter what happens here, “eventually KARMA catches up to everyone.”

Photos are courtesy of Robin Flood.

Did the Famed Great White Mary Lee Have Part of This Dolphin for Lunch?

To many people who live along the eastern coast of the US, Mary Lee has become a bit of a celebrity.  For folks who don’t know, Mary Lee is a 3,500 pound, 16 foot great white that was tagged with a satellite tracker last year by OCEARCH.  Since that time, the world has been closely watching her movements.

Mary Lee’s location in proximity to where dead dolphin washed up on shore

What has made Mary Lee so fascinating compared to the other east coast tagged sharks is that she appears to enjoy staying close to shore in the winter months.  During the summer, she moved farther out to sea off the GA/NC border.  But as soon as the water temps began to drift down, she came to life and began moving up the coast towards North Carolina.

Last month, she spent a few days in the Cape Fear region and made a very close pass by Carolina Beach, NC and reportedly was spotted by an area fisherman.

Now fast forward to yesterday, Mary Lee pinged very close to shore in St. Helena Sound in South Carolina. According to area fishermen who know the waters, that area is known for having abundant fish life and is 50+ feet deep in many spots.

Dolphin bitten in half from apparent shark bite washed up on shore at Folly Beach
Dolphin bitten in half by apparent shark. – Pic by Mark Gray

Today, Mark Gray posted a photo on the Beaufort Online Facebook page of this dolphin which had washed up on the beach at Hunting Island Lighthouse which as you can see, is very close to where Mary Lee had pinged.

Of course there are many sharks in the sea and any large shark could be responsible for this bite but you have to admit, the timing of it all is rather intriguing.

We should note that numerous dolphins along the east coast of the U.S. have been dying due to an outbreak of a measles-like virus called morbillivirus. The deaths began in the Northeast but have been spreading farther south and just last month, a infected dolphin washed up on the beach at Hilton Head, SC.

It does make us wonder if this dolphin possibly had the virus and was therefore easy prey? And if it did have the virus, did that impact the shark from not consuming the entire dolphin?  Did it possibly affect the taste of the meat?  Lots of questions, yet we don’t have any answers.  But fortunately, OCEARCH is attempting to get more information on the death of the dolphin and we’ll post an update here if more information comes out.

EDIT 11/08: We received word from Walt who runs Beaufort Online and he advised us that the photo was actually from Folly Beach and was taken on 11/01/2013.  For some reason, the photo was posted to his page with erroneous information.  

Sooo, with that said, it would appear that Ms. Mary Lee is most likely exonerated from this horrific mammal crime. We apologize for any inconvenience or nightmares this story may have caused and we extend our thanks to Walt for setting the record straight.

Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached out to OCEARCH and confirmed that there were many ‘half’ dolphins found in the area in the past few weeks which led OCEARCH to ask on their Facebook page if there could be other white sharks migrating through that area? 

Video: Tiger Shark Eats Sea Turtle at Great Barrier Reef

One of the tiger shark’s favorite foods is the sea turtle and they have adapted an efficient yet ruthless method for consuming the hard shell delicacy.

The tiger sharks will systematically bite off each flipper thus rendering the turtle immobile and helpless.  At this point, the shark can consume the remaining core by using it’s heavy jaws and serrated teeth to tear through the hard shell.

Although both green sea turtles and loggerheads are on the tiger shark’s diet, tiger sharks tend to consume five times the number of loggerheads then the greens.  In attempting to learn why, researchers have discovered that green turtles spend much less time breathing at the surface compared to loggerheads which will often linger on the surface for extended periods. Sea turtles are most vulnerable to tiger shark attacks while on the surface.

In addition, greens are faster and quicker than the loggerhead thus making them a more challenging target.

In this video from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia it does not state what type of turtle is being consumed but from the best we can tell, it looks to be a green turtle based on the smooth shell as visible in the still photos at the end of the video.

The video was posted on Vimeo by Julia Sumerling and is 2:10 in length.  Julia gives credit to Gunda Streckenbach & Steve Eckrich for their photographs and she also extends a special thanks to Mike Ball Dive Expeditions.
NOTE: Here is an earlier video showing another tiger shark consuming a sea turtle.

Video of the Largest Great White Ever Tagged off Western Australian Coast

Press release: Western Australia’s Shark Monitoring Network is now using new technology to provide alerts on 326 tagged sharks – including a four metre white shark recently tagged by Department of Fisheries research scientists.

The mature male is the largest white shark to be internally fitted with an acoustic transmitter tag in Australian waters.

Fisheries Minister Troy Buswell said the shark – measuring four metres from its nose to the tip of its tail – was one of two caught off Albany’s Cheynes Beach in August.

The scientists surgically implanted small acoustic transmitters – or tags – in the sharks’ stomachs in a quick procedure alongside a boat and then released them.

The network now uses about 320 receivers positioned in the seabed and 20 satellite receivers to monitor tagged sharks – 136 white sharks, 171 whaler sharks and 19 tiger sharks.

The alerts can now be delivered within less than two minutes of a shark being detected by the monitoring network.

Diver’s in South Africa Have Close Encounter with Agitated Tiger Shark

Diver reaches out to touch agitated tiger shark

A diver filmed a rather eye opening close encounter with a large tiger shark off Protea Banks reef which is located about 7km off the coast of South Africa near Margate.

The video starts with the tiger shark already close at hand.  Almost immediately, you can see that the shark appears to be agitated when it snaps its jaws at the 1 second mark. As the shark continues swimming, you can see that its pectoral fins are slanted down and the shark’s movements seem just a bit rigid.
As the shark passes a diver at the 8 second mark, the diver reaches out to touch the shark but appears to not make connection.  With any shark in an aggressive state, a move such as this could easily be an open invite for trouble.
Tiger shark approaches diver and snaps its jaws

The shark then makes a turn and heads directly towards the person filming.  In a rather stunning move, as the shark is within just a few feet of the videographer, it again snaps its jaws which is easily audible at the 14 second mark.

Fortunately for everyone present, the shark then turns and swims off into the dark sea and out of sight. We should note that the shark has an injury on its left side.  At first we thought it might be from a cookiecutter shark bite but upon closer look, it appears to be more of a deep penetrating hole.

The video was posted today on Youtube by Chris vd Merwe and is 40 seconds in length.

Photo is screenshot from video.

Update: We asked the folks at Shark Diver Magazine to review the video and render their analysis.  We heard back from Eli Martinez who is the Editor at SDM and is often referred to as the shark whisperer. Here are his comments from FB:

“BIG shark. The shark was agitated for sure. It looks like the shark came in to investigate the divers, popping her jaw, showing her dominance and size. She was not a super confident shark because she did not try to bump. But confident enough to come in to get a closer look. I think if they would of touched her she would of taken off faster. She was not comfortable and the second jaw pop was her trying to reinforce her dominance over them as she made her close pass, letting them know she was a shark that they better not mess with her. This is just my opinion of course. That is a very deep hole…wonder what did that? – Elim 

Shark conservationist goes naked and free-dives with sharks to raise awareness

Press Release August 2013 – From entangling herself naked in fishing nets to free-diving with sharks, South African marine conservationist Lesley Rochat has set out to prove by example that sharks are not the evil man-eating predators we perceive them to be, but an extremely threatened and important part of the marine eco-system. Known as the “Shark Warrior”, Lesley Rochat has travelled all over the world, free diving with sharks to film and photograph the experience for her international Panda Award winning shark awareness campaign called, Rethink the Shark.

 Lesley Rochat

Frustrated by public and Government inertia about shark conservation, Lesley Rochat has now stripped naked for a poster to raise awareness for an anti-shark net awareness. Though this passionate campaigner has gone to all kinds of extreme lengths to raise awareness, it was the first time she went totally naked, tying herself up in gill netting, to make a point as visually powerful as possible.

 “I have proudly joined women who have through the ages gone naked to protest against numerous issues of concern. For example, women have gone naked against bull fighting, against war, against the fur trade, and now against the senseless slaughter of our sharks and other marine life in the Kwazulu-Natal shark nets in South Africa.”

 Lesley Rochat with lemon shark

Sharks are being killed at an alarming rate (over 70 million sharks a year) and most are caught by long line vessels that trail up to 140km lines with over 2500 hooks attached. The demand for sharks parts, in particular their fins, the most expensive fish product in the world, is increasing to satisfy the palette of the elite in a broth called shark fin soup. How their fins are obtained is one of the most cruel, barbaric and wasteful practices, compared to the illegal rhino horn trade whereby sharks are finned alive and then thrown overboard to die a slow and cruel death. Even in South African waters, shark finning is happening daily, people are just not aware of it.

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Lesley visited Florida USA recently, as part of her research in areas of high shark attack frequency. Her interest in Florida is that although Florida is known as the ‘shark bite capital’ of the world, no shark nets are placed to protect bathers. South Africa, however, still has shark nets lining sections of its coast, which indiscriminately kill many sharks and other innocent marine animals every year.

“These nets are wiping out our tiger shark population, which people come from all over the world to dive with. They are of high value in the shark diving eco-tourism industry. Florida, despite its high shark attack statistics is a very positive example for South Africa to follow,” said Lesley.

 Lesley Rochat free-dives with tiger shark

From Florida Lesley set sail on the Dolphin Dream vessel for Tiger Beach, a dive site in the Bahamas. Tiger Beach is considered a top shark diving destination of the world. Lesley gathered images and footage of sharks for a book and a documentary to use for her campaign, which aims to put shark attacks into perspective.

As part of the campaign Lesley free dived with large tiger sharks at Tiger Beach. “It’s important for me to walk my talk and show people that sharks are not monster man-eaters with insatiable appetites for humans, but rather beautiful animals we ought to respect and protect,” she said.

The Rethink the shark campaign highlights that on average less than 10 people are killed by sharks every year while more people are killed each year by faulty toasters or by falling off chairs.

 Lesley Rochat free-dives with tiger sharks

Tiger sharks are considered the second most dangerous shark in the world and free diving with them was a new experience for Lesley: “Because of all the bad publicity tiger sharks have received over the years, I felt vulnerable. But the second I dove down and swam beside a beautiful tiger shark, my fear dissolved, replaced with the simple joy of being free with the animals I love so much – they really are very badly misunderstood. They need all the help they can get,” said Lesley.

 “It’s time to ‘Rethink the Shark’, and to rethink who the real predator is,” explains Lesley.

“Though there might be nothing more terrifying than the cry of ‘Shark’ when swimming in the ocean, if sharks could speak, they would all be shouting ‘People!’ Populations are plummeting around the world and already 110 species of sharks on the international Red List are threatened with extinction. For all their perceived menace, sharks are extremely fragile and in deep trouble.”

Sharks play a vital role in maintaining the delicate balance of the marine ecosystems and oceans denuded of them will have severe repercussion on the millions of people that depend upon the oceans for food. Scientific reports project the collapse of all fisheries by the year 2050, and as fish stocks decline shark catches are on the increase. Sharks are good indicators of the health of the oceans, but despite their importance in the marine food-chain, they remain a low conservation priority.

“Their future survival depends largely upon those in power supporting the conservation efforts of organizations and scientists and to changing fishing practices, limiting catches, banning finning, severely prosecuting perpetrators, protecting endangered species, creating more marine protected areas and shark sanctuary areas, and enforcing all of the above,” concludes Lesley.

Kimi Werner Freedives with Great White

In this Variables video, Patagonia ambassador Kimi Werner strives to find her place in the ecosystem and discusses her remarkable free dive with a great white shark.

“My hand reached out and connected with her dorsal fin and we just started to glide together.  I know she could’ve eaten me at any second had she wanted to, but in this moment we were just two animals, two predators swimming together.

Kimi is native Hawaiin and and has spent a lifetime in the water and is extremely comfortable in the ocean environmnet.  She is an avid spear fisheworman and readily admits that she is not on the ‘top of the food chain.’

As stated in the video description, she “treads the line between predator and prey – eventually discovering balance in an unlikely place.

The video is 4:45 in length and it will most certainly grab your attention.  Enjoy!

Cinematography: Morgan Ball, Freddy Booth, Sterling Kaya, Kyle Nakamoto, Captain Chris Wade, Justin Turkowski, Kimi Werner
Editing: Justin Turkowski

Fatal Shark Attack in Guam

A swimmer was attacked and killed by a shark in Tumon Bay, Guam on Sunday.

The 40-year-old victim was identified as Nae Dok Kim from Korea and he worked on the island.

His body was found Sunday morning by fisherman and was missing both legs and his upper left arm.

Guam’s chief medical examiner stated that there was evidence of bleeding with indicates that the man was alive when the attack occurred.

News Accounts: 
-Guam Pacific Daily News: Man was killed by shark: Medical examiner says victim attacked, drowned
Pacific News Center: Medical Examiner Says Shark Attacked Korean Tourist Who Then Died From Drowning
Photo from Guam Pacific Daily News.