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Grey reef sharks at Maui Ocean Center. Joe Boyd / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hawaiian lawmakers and conservationists are pushing for a landmark law to protect the Aloha State's sharks and rays.

House Bill 808, which outlaws the intentional killing, capture, abuse or entanglement of sharks and rays in state marine waters, passed its first committee meeting on Wednesday. The upper chamber version, Senate Bill 489, secured its first committee approval late last month and passed a second reading on Monday.

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Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive fish.

The conservationist noted that "moments like this are increasingly rare because shark populations are being wiped out" due to shark finning.


Many commenters praised Ramsey for raising awareness about the vulnerable species and for changing negative perceptions of the powerful predator by showing them in a gentler light.

However, other marine biologists, including Michael Domeier, the founding director of the non-profit Marine Conservation Science Institute, raised concerns about Ramsey's actions, especially for touching the shark and for possibly inspiring non-experts to hop in the ocean in search of selfies with vulnerable and potentially dangerous ocean creatures.

The white, tiger and bull shark are the top three shark species behind the most fatal attacks due to their large size, according to the Florida Museum.

"The number 1 rule of legitimate shark diving operators is DON'T TOUCH THE SHARKS!" Domeier wrote in an Instagram post. "This is not shark advocacy...it is selfish, self-promotion."

Domeier wrote in a separate Instagram post that a day after Ramsey's videos went viral, about 60 people visited the waters around her swim, putting themselves and the area's sharks at risk.

"Guess how many sharks were observed: ZERO! Don't you think all those people in the water might intimidate the sharks??" he wrote.

David Shiffman, a marine conservation biologist who studies sharks, told The Washington Post: "I can't believe that 'please don't grab the 18-foot long wild predator' is something that needs to be explicitly said out loud, but here we are."

"There is absolutely no reason for this person to grab and attempt to ride a free-swimming animal. It doesn't show that sharks aren't dangerous, it shows that some humans make bad choices," Shiffman tweeted.

In one Instagram photo, Ramsey's hand appears to be placed on the shark. She also wrote in a different post, "I waited quietly, patiently, observing as she swam up to the dead sperm whale carcass and then slowly to me passing close enough I gently put my hand out to maintain a small space so her girth could pass."

Ramsey helps lead educational shark diving tours in Oahu, the Post reported.

"I know some people criticize touch but what some don't realize is that sometimes sharks seek touch," Ramsey added in the post. "I wish more people would have a connection with sharks and the natural world, because then they would understand that it's not petting sharks or pushing them off to maintain a respectable space that is hurting sharks (because trust me if she didn't like being pet she can handle and communicate)."

She continued, "it's the wasteful and cruel practice of grabbing and catching sharks to cut off their fins (which slowly kills them) for shark fin soup."

[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that sharks are marine mammals. Sharks belong to a family of fish that have skeletons made of cartilage.]

Whale Shark. NOAA

By Joshua Learn

Sharks, rays and chimaeras are some of the most threatened fish in the world. More than 50 percent of species in the Arabian Sea are at elevated risk of extinction due to coastal development, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. According to an expansive new study, spanning more than a dozen countries, species like sawfish are particularly hard hit with extinction or local extirpation.

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Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

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Waves from the Atlantic Ocean crash against a scenic beach on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This sandy peninsula is a popular summer vacation destination and is also known for its many Great White sharks. Velvetfish / iStock / Getty Images

By Jason Bittel

On a sunny Saturday in mid-September, 26-year-old Arthur Medici was boogie-boarding in the waves off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, when a great white shark bit his leg. Despite the efforts of a friend who pulled him ashore and the paramedics who rushed him to the hospital, Medici died from his injuries. It's about as tragic a story as you can imagine: a young life cut short due to a freak run-in with a wild animal.

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Marine Institute, Ireland

Marine scientists discovered a very rare shark nursery about 200 miles west of Ireland and shared a mesmerizing video of the find.

Back in July, the government-supported Marine Institute's SeaRover survey found a large school of blackmouth catsharks and what appears to be thousands of their egg cases, also known a "mermaids purses," at depths up to 750 meters (2,500 feet).

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