String of Unusual Shark-Related Incidents in the Carolinas

If you live in the USA and have been following the news, you may know that there have been a sharp increase in shark incidents along the coasts of North and South Carolina. Since mid-May, there have been 10 recorded shark-related accidents on beach-goers. The annual average for this location is usually 6/year. 

(The most recent shark-related incidents along the Carolinas coast. Map is from CNN).

So what’s going on?

Scientists cannot pinpoint a specific reason, and a number of theories have been flying around, especially from the major media outlets.

One is that the proximity of fisherman from the beach was of particular concern in last weekend’s attacks. Bait and dead fish is likely to attract the bigger predators, and with swimmers nearby, it might not be the best mix.

Another popular theory is that drought conditions in the Carolinas have led to decreased fresh water runoff and thus to saltier sea water, which sharks prefer. Moreover, baby sea turtles and menhaden fish have been more plentiful than usual, providing more attraction for the sharks, and another potential explanation for these incidents. It is also possible that their usual food supply has been depleted or has changed its patterns. Overfishing, habitat destruction and increased sport fishing, with its baiting of sharks, also may be bringing the sharks closer to shore.

(A Great Hammerhead shark cruises in the Bahamas. Photo by Austin Gallagher)

Finally,  it may also be due to the simple fact that there are more people in the water. The Earth is as populated as it has ever been, and with the warming waters, people tend to go to the beach more. The increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans in turn increases the opportunities for interaction between the two parties.

24/7 news and social media coverage tends to exaggerate the danger. You are actually more likely to have an accident driving to the beach than being bitten by a shark at the beach. Check out this list of everything that’s more likely to kill you than a shark. Yes, vending machines are more likely to kill you than a shark!

Shark ‘attacks’ are still rare events, and rare events tend to cluster occasionally and get our attention when they do. It is tempting to look for pattern and for cause-and-effect when this happens, but we do not really have any scientific information on this particular event in the Carolinas, and it is thus hard to rule out any theory. It is probably one of those things listed above, but we cannot pinpoint a specific one quite yet.

(Photo by Fred Buyle).

People just have to be smart about it. Don’t go swimming at dusk or dawn, and avoid swimming where there is a lot of fish activity. Sharks have more to fear from us than the other way around. Millions of sharks are killed every year, many for just their fins or incidental to commercial fishing for other species.

We are not on the menu, because if we were, nobody would ever go in the ocean. I really do not like using the term “shark attack”, as it has a negative connotation and implies that sharks are purposefully out to get us. Sharks are not out to get people, and we have to respect that they are top predators and that the ocean is their territory, and we are just guests in it.
One in ten wild bees face extinction in Europe - BBC News
Many of Europe's native wild bees are threatened with extinction, according to the first comprehensive assessment of risks.

I’ve photographed at least six species of bee in the forest garden here, and I believe I’ve identified ten; of these, at least one is endangered/threatened (the Shrill Carder Bee). 

The shrill carder bee, seen on my cranesbill

There are between 240 - 286 species of bee in Denmark (depending on who you ask), so I have a lot to learn about my local pollinators.

The learning starts gradually. For me, my love of photography has made me much more observant of things like which flowers different species of bee visit, and at what times of day different species forage: I follow them around trying to get a halfway decent shot, and end up learning their schedule.

I’ve been trying to spend more time observing the local area as well, seeing if there are species I don’t have here in the yard, and identifying the flowers they visit, as well as the habitats they like.

It takes time, but when you are designing your garden space, you should design it with sharing in mind: you give a little back to your biome, and you get a lot in return.

More on bees
Sea Save: Do you believe 'Shark Week' has the ability to help promote shark conservation? How?
Vote on this poll.

Do you think Shark Week can contribute to shark conservation?
Weigh in on our poll and let us know what you think!

Shark week starts July 5th- Follow #finbassador and Sea Save leader Georgienne Bradley on twitter and watch this blog for more updates! 

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) on a chive (Allium schoenoprasum) blossom.

We have a colony of these here, so I must be doing something right. They are called ‘stenhumle’ (stone bumblebees) in Danish.

I’ve been doing my best to leave as much deadnettle and clover as possible, as those are their preferred forage plants.
Elephant Chained For 50 Years Waits As Angry Mob Blocks His Freedom
For the love of animals. Pass it on.

Last July, animal advocates around the world celebrated the rescue of a captive elephant named Raju who wept “tears” after being freed from a half-century of chains in India. The move was seen as a legal victory for elephants across India, as well as a much-deserved retirement for the elderly elephant who had suffered abuse his whole life.

What few people know, however, is that there was another elephant who was supposed to be rescued with Raju that same July night. His name is Mohan and he is still in shackles as rescuers fight “downright dangerous” obstacles in an effort to free him from his abusers.

[Updates on Mohan’s situation may be found here:]
No Birds For You! House Passes Provision to End All Migratory Bird Protections in the United States (UPDATED) | Andrew Wetzler's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC
Spring is finally here, and with it the return of birds to backyards and playgrounds across America. So, naturally, it is also the perfect time for Congressional Republicans to completely suspend one of the main laws protecting them. First...


No, the Senate hasn’t voted on it yet. But this is a dangerous precedent. 

First of all, most people have no clue the law exists, let alone what it does: protect the vast majority of wild birds in the United States by making it illegal to buy, sell or possess live or dead birds, their eggs and nests. Our birds are already showing declining numbers due to a host of problems; this would make it even more difficult to protect the ones that are left. People are willing to protect the Endangered Species Act because they know about it; few people know that the MBTA is even more effective.

For those who complain about the MBTA, especially vultures who wish they could use the feathers and other parts in their collections or art, listen up: The law is there for a good damned reason. You remember hearing about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon when the last individual died in 1914? 

You remember hearing how that species, just twenty years before, you could find flocks of them numbering in the millions? That drastic drop happened because there was no law in place to protect them. 

We almost lost a LOT of other species of bird at the same time. Not only were people hunting and eating all sorts of birds, but the feathered hat trade was HUGE. You know great egrets, these gorgeous birds?

Yeah, we almost lost those. People wanted the beautiful white plumes they grow. What they didn’t realize was that those plumes ONLY grow during mating and young-rearing season, so you would have hunters go in and kill one or both parents, after which all the babies would starve to death, and for the sake of a few feathers four, five, or more birds died all by the hand of one hunter. The egrets almost went extinct, and the ONLY thing that saved them was the MBTA.

You know what else the MBTA helps prevent when it’s applied properly, and what it could be further leveraged to prevent? Habitat loss, spraying of chemicals, over-hunting and poaching, and other stresses on already stressed species. Without it, conservationists will have one less tool to use to keep people from decimating wild bird populations for selfish means.

You want to see the MBTA revised so you can have your found blue jay feathers or that robin skull for your collection? Great–support revisions. But don’t celebrate this devastating move on the part of Congress. Contact your Senator–yes, even if you can’t vote–and contact President Obama. Tell them we need the MBTA. Tell them we need our birds protected. 

And reblog this–pass it on so others can help.


The #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM Oregon Begins with the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Located at the crossroads of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges, scientists have long recognized the outstanding ecological values of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges resulted in an area with remarkable biological diversity. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail meanders 19 miles through the monument, offering challenging hikes with stunning views.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM

The 6th Mass Extinction on Earth has Begun

Troubling evidence recently released by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology, has  show a large increase in the number of species lost over the last century. The numbers above each bar represent the estimated values for extinct vertebrates. The image above shows that since the industrial revolution, species diversity has been rapidly declining in response to human activity including:

  • Destruction of habitats
  • Introduction of invasive species
  • Climate change
  • Destruction of ecosystems because of pollutants

Erlich and his colleagues do offer hope for the future. If rapid conservation efforts are undertaken now, then  such a dramatic ecological event can be avoided. It is more than likely that if such an even were to occur, the human race would suffer itself.

Source: ScienceAdvances
The Eastern Cougar is officially extinct
Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as 'extinct'.

Nearly 80 years after it was last seen, the eastern cougar will be officially recognised by US conservation authorities as ‘extinct’.

Following a four-year review, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will next month remove the eastern cougar from its list of endangered and threatened species — where it has been for the last 43 years.

The big cat, which once roamed North America from Canada to South Carolina, will no longer receive Endangered Species Act protections.

Cougars - along with their cousins panthers and pumas - were once the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, but have been driven out from two-thirds of land that they once occupied, wildlife biologists have said.

Continue Reading.


June 8th is World Oceans Day - a day to celebrate the oceans that connect and sustain all of us.
Our colleagues at the Biodiversity Heritage Library have been leading up to today with a series of blog posts  exploring historic publications that mark important milestones in the progress of marine bioscience research and ocean exploration.

Top image: Whale shark from  Illustrations of the zoology of South Africa… v.4 (1845)
Middle top : radiolarians and jellyfish from Ernst Haeckle’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904)
Middle bottom: giant squid from Cassell’s Natural History v.5-6 and cuttlefish from  Voyage de la corvette l'Astrolabe Mollusques and Zoophytes Atlas (1833)
Bottom: deep sea fish from  Valdivia Expedition…1898-1899. Bd. 15, T. 1