As the Discovery Channel marks its 30th anniversary of Shark Week, it's important to remember that many populations of the iconic ocean predator are under threat from human activity, especially from commercial fishing.
On Monday, a new interactive map was launched to show the movements of 45 sharks tagged between 2012 and 2018. Their tracks, covering more than 150,000 miles total, were overlaid with commercial fishing traffic in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, showing the challenges shark populations encounter every day.
"Many species of large sharks remain highly vulnerable throughout our oceans, and the integration provided here highlights the magnitude of threats they face," said project leader Austin Gallagher, chief scientist and CEO of Beneath the Waves, in a press release provided to EcoWatch.
Oceana collaborated with @DrAustinG from @Beneaththewaves and @DrNeilHammer from @UMSharkResearch to combine sharks… https://t.co/KIaUNH2xqL— Oceana (@Oceana)1532353649.0
"Highly mobile sharks, such as those reflected in this interactive map, often navigate through a gauntlet of fishing vessels with potential interactions," said project collaborator and shark expert Neil Hammerschlag at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in the press release." Many fishing gear types can put these sharks at risk, as both target and bycatch—especially in the international waters of the high seas where no catch limits exist for many shark species."
Tagged species include blue, tiger, shortfin mako, great hammerhead, scalloped hammerhead, porbeagle and dusky sharks. Their tracks were added to Global Fishing Watch, an online platform launched two years ago by Google, Oceana and SkyTruth "to provide the world's first global view of commercial fishing activities."
The map shows the incredible distances the tagged sharks traveled. One 7-foot-8-inch adult male shortfin mako shark named "Oscar" traveled more than 22,000 miles in less than two years. Another 8-foot-4-inch adult male blue shark named "Buzz" traveled 3,000 south from Cape Cod, past the Caribbean to South America
The current map provides historical data but the team eventually hopes to display information in real time, Fast Company reported.
"We're hoping to expand and collaborate with more researchers to not only get more shark data but then other marine wildlife data as well, so that we can really create this interactive map platform that shows all types of marine wildlife and how they're interacting with fishing vessels," Lacey Malarky, an analyst with the illegal fishing and seafood fraud campaign at Oceana, told the website.
Gillnet Fishing Blamed for Killing Up to 100 Baby Hammerhead Sharks in Honolulu https://t.co/GNbE4MCRRK #overfishing #bycatch— Blue Planet Society (@Blue Planet Society)1530166351.0
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.