Friday, May 27, 2005

Surfer survives a shark attack in South Africa

A South African surfer was attacked by what was believed to be a ragged-tooth shark on Wednesday, a rare incident involving a predator that seldom clashes with humans.
The attack took place at a popular surfing spot on the Eastern Cape, police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela said, confirming local media reports.

"A surfer was attacked and bitten on the left buttock and was treated for his injuries," he said.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that the shark was believed to be a ragged-tooth, which looks sinister but seldom bites humans unless provoked.

"Ragged-tooth sharks usually do not initiate an attack. The surfer may have disturbed it by falling off his board and bumping into it," said Mike Anderson-Reade, deputy CEO of operations at the Natal Sharks Board.

Attacks by the larger and more fierce great white shark are far more common. In March, a British tourist had a narrow escape when a 5-metre (15 foot) Great White tore into a diving cage about 100 km (60 miles) southeast of Cape Town.

The International Shark Attack File says 61 attacks were reported in the world last year, seven of which were fatal.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The movie Jaws is worth to be celebrated

First Jaws Fest to be celebrated in memory of the movie Posted by Hello

Thirty years ago a movie by a little-known director, Steven Spielberg, put Martha's Vineyard on the map as Amity Island, a New England seaside town being menaced by a great white shark. Vineyarders have recently decided that ``Jaws'' is worth celebrating.

Jaws Fest, the first of what organizers hope will be a popular annual event, debuts June 3 to 5, and will feature indoor and outdoor showings of the movie, a clambake, workshops on the filming, autograph-signing sessions by more than 25 of the cast and crew (but not the principals; no Dreyfuss, Scheider or Spielberg), appearances by author Peter Benchley and more.

An exact head-to-tailfin replica of Bruce, the shark model used in the movie (it was famously nicknamed ``Flaws'' for its many malfunctions) will travel from Menemsha to West Tisbury to Edgartown, providing a great photo op. A souvenir map will show visitors where filming took place in 1974 across the island.

The festival coincides with the release of the 30th anniversary ``Jaws'' DVD. For more on Jaws Fest, go to

``Jaws'' not only scared people from stepping foot into the ocean, but changed the lives of some island residents. Herald travel editor Fran Golden and photographer Tara Bricking recently met a few.

Even today, Lee Fierro is known as the lady who slapped Chief Brody.
In ``Jaws,'' as Mrs. Kitner, her son is eaten by the shark and she tells the chief, ``You knew there was a shark out there! You knew it was dangerous! But you let people go swimming anyway!'' before giving him a wallop.

Back in 1974, Fierro was a New York actress who had given up her career and moved to the Vineyard to raise her five kids. She got the call to meet Spielberg at an inn in Edgartown and he asked her to improvise a scene that involved telling her son he can't go for another swim.

``I kept saying no, no, no,'' she explained. After a few minutes, she said Spielberg interrupted her, saying ``Lee, you have to let him back in the water or we don't have a movie.''

The slap scene took 17 takes and the appearance rekindled her appetite for theater - Fierro has since performed in and directed dozens of shows for adults and children on the island and runs the Island Theatre Workshop - and made her a local celebrity. Will Pfluger is the Edgartown assessor today, but to ``Jaws'' fans he is the sailboat captain who has an exchange with marine biologist Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) on the pier: ``I am having an argument with a woman. He (Dreyfuss) says, `Do you got a paddle on the boat?' And I turn around and say `Yeah, I got a paddle.' ''

Pfluger has received residuals of about $25,000 for the role and today nets about $400 to $500 per year. Asked why he was tapped for the part, he said he's a professional guitar player (he even has a CD) and was used to performing on the coffeehouse circuit in New England and Florida.

Since ``Jaws,'' he's also appeared in plays. ``I was a Mountie in `Little Mary Sunshine,' '' he said.

M/V Skipper operator John Potter remembers the filming of ``Jaws'' well.
``I was actually 13 when the first movie was filmed and I was (working) on a party boat on Oak Bluffs harbor,'' he said. ``I was throwing lures at the (fake) shark and Universal wasn't too happy.''

Today Potter runs his own 38-passenger party fishing boat ( and is getting overwhelmed with requests for cruises to film locations during the festival. Potter said he's gotten calls from as far away as Dublin, Ireland; five guys are flying in by private plane from Los Angeles. ``These people are absolutely obsessed with this whole `Jaws' thing,'' he said. ``They are more obsessed than Trekkies.''

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Great white shark and the megalodon are not related after all?

This picture show how big were the jaws of the biggest and most voracious shark that ever swam in our oceans: the megalodon. Posted by Hello

The extinct giant shark known as Megalodon is sometimes mistakenly referredto as a great-white shark. However, the lineage that produced this gigantic shark came from a different group. We know this because Megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) and its ancestors can be traced through a nearly complete series of fossil beds found right here in Virginia.

The difference is in the teeth.

When the lineage first appeared 60 million years ago, its tooth shape was different from its often mistaken cousin, the great white. It had a central tall cusp of about 2½ inches (a cusp is the pointed end of the tooth) was not serrated (notched like the edge of a saw).

At 50 million years ago it continued this same tooth shape and size but began to develop fine serrations. Eventually the tooth's center cusp began to widen and the two smaller cusps became much smaller.

Between 18 and 15 million years ago the side cusps were much smaller and appeared only as bumps on the much wider central cusp. The serration of the teeth increased to about 4 inches. By the time Megalodon became extinct, the teeth were about 6 inches high and 5 inches fish.

The modern-day great-white shark has a lineage that started at the same time as the Megalodon lineage, about 60 million years ago. But the great white's lineage, Carcharodon, lacked side cusps and had much coarser serrations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

And the rumor is that the great white shark is the killer beast... Really?

This picture displays the cruelty of mankind against the sharks. This mako shark was mistaken for a great white shark. All this to play a hoax! Posted by Hello

Great white shark released from Montery is doing well

A great white shark that spent a record 198 days in captivity before her release from the Monterey Bay Aquarium thrived during her first month in the wild, according to data from a temporary tracking tag released Monday.

The female shark swam up to 200 miles offshore and to depths of about 800 feet in the 30 days since her March 31 release at the southern tip of Monterey Bay, said Randy Kochevar, an aquarium marine biologist and researcher with the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics project.

The findings are limited but answer a pressing question as the aquarium embarks on another season of shark research that could lead to another in captivity. The data confirm that the shark's stay in Monterey didn't hurt its ability to thrive once it was set free.

"An animal of that size and that age could not survive more than a few days without food," Kochevar said. "When we see an animal that has been actively moving around for 30 days, we know this is an animal that is successfully hunting.

This is an animal that's doing just fine."

The shark was captured off Orange County by halibut fisherman in August and spent several weeks in an offshore pen in Malibu before being moved to the Monterey aquarium in September. Nearly 1 million people saw her swim around the massive Outer Bay exhibit during her stay in Monterey. The previous captivity record was 16 days.

In late March, she was returned to the Pacific near Point Pinos after she began exhibiting hunting behavior and biting tank mates. She also had gained 100 pounds, and there was concern she might quickly grow too big for easy removal.

The satellite tracking tag was attached and set to pop off after 30 days. It was found May 5 west of Point Arguello, near Santa Barbara.

The tag, which recorded the shark's location and other data every 10 seconds, also found she spent most of its time in surface waters with a temperature of about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. In deeper dives, temperatures dropped to less than 48 degrees.

Her preferences are "consistent with those returned from tags we've placed on other young sharks as part of the project," said Kevin Weng, a researcher with Hopkins Maine Station of Stanford University, which is one of the aquarium's partners in the white shark field project.

Because the tracking device was designed to pop off after a month, the shark's whereabouts are now unknown. But there's still a chance she might be found again: The shark carries identification numbers that would be visible if she's ever caught.

"Because she was a fairly small animal, we were really hesitant to try to attach multiple tags to her," Kochevar said. "These pop-off tags are a relatively large piece of equipment for an animal to drag around."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Pictures reveal the cruelty of humans against sharks

There is a good story that has been circulated on the Internet about a large Great White Shark that towed a vessel backwards after being tail looped. The story, a hoax, is posted below. In fact the photographs are of a large short-fin Mako shark that was captured off of Nova Scotia.

The close up of the sharks head and mouth clearly show lower dentition that is narrow and pointed, which are characteristics of the Mako shark, unlike the broad, somewhat triangularly serrated teeth of a white shark.

Ralph S. Collier, of the Shark Research Committee has kindly provided the link to the Urban Legends page outlining this particular hoax entitled
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia: Urban Legend based on This Years Shark Scramble Catch.

More images of the real event are to be found at the
Florida Museaum of Natural History Ichthyology Department and this provided by a Surfersvillage visitor after noticing the hoax story...Thank you Anonymous.

So the foregoing are the facts, and the following is the HOAX.

Ocean Shores Wa. USA - While the ocean vessel 'Dawn Raider' was commercial fishing for dogfish, this Great White was hooked in the mouth but only resisted slightly for 15 minutes before it came up alongside the boat to have a look; long enough for one of the crew members to slip a rope around it's tail !!! 'And that's when the s**t hit the fan!!

The Shark took off towing the 42 foot fishing boat backwards through the water at about 7 Knots. Just like in JAWS, the boat was taking on water over the stern and the crew watched in horror as the shark would actually jump completely out of the water at times. This went on for an hour before the shark finally drowned.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Saved from a great white shark by dolphins story is sold for movie

A lifeguard who credited a pod of dolphins with saving four swimmers from a circling great white shark has sold the film rights to the story. Canadian producer Alexis Nihon has secured film rights from lifeguard Rob Howes to take the story to the big screen. Mr Howes has signed over audio-visual and merchandising rights for a percentage of the movie's profit.

The movie will be based on the encounter of four lifeguards being saved by about seven dolphins from a 3m great white shark at Northland's Ocean Beach last October. The story created international interest after Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving member Mr Howes and three teenagers, his daughter Nicky, Karina Cooper and Helen Slade, who was having her first day on the job, were 100m out to sea on a training swim when seven dolphins herded them together, apparently protecting them from the shark.

Mr Howes has never had doubts that it was a great white. "It glided around in an arc and headed for the other two girls. My heart went into my mouth because one of them was my daughter. The dolphins were going ballistic," he told the Herald at the time. Mr Howes said Mr Nihon, a member of a Canadian investment trust, had to buy the rights from him because the producer wanted to base the film around his experience.

Mr Howes has begun writing a story about his experience. "He [Mr Nihon] already had screenwriters putting together bits and pieces from the media. He thought it would be great to have the real inside story." Mr Howes hoped the movie would be shot at Ocean Beach, but production costs could mean it would be filmed in Florida or the Bahamas, where there is easy access to trained dolphins.

If the movie is made offshore then Mr Howes hoped some of the background scenery could be shot at Ocean Beach. He said Natural History New Zealand was also planning a documentary about the incident.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Great white shark tooth

This is a beautiful picture of this gold capped pendant that is made of an authentic great white shark tooth. While a fossilized great white shark tooth is worth between five and twenty-two dollars, jewels made with non-fossilized ones are between fifteen dollars without any gold up to about three hundred and fifty dollars for one that is capped with gold like the one in this picture. Posted by Hello

Great white shark in captivity is back in the wild

The first great white shark to live the longest in captivity was spotted by a gps that was linked to its tag. This shark was released on March 31, 2005 in Monterey Bay. It has been noticed that it is currently making its way down South.

Great white sharks are usually known as not being able to either survive or becoming ill in captivity. One of the reasons is their sensitivity to certain substances present in an aquarium. Eventually, sharks tend to mutilate themselves either accidentally or wilfully. Their senses becoming affected as well as their will to live can create difficult health conditions for them while in captivity.

So far, the great white shark that has been released seemed to adapt easily and enjoy his life in the wild.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Even the great white shark does not have teeth that size

This fossilized tooth of a megalodon is about the size of a human hand. While a great white shark can grow up to about 20 feet in lenght, the megalodon could be as long as 40 feet. This ancester of the shark was roaming the oceans about 60 to 65 millions years ago. These days, such a megalodon tooth for sale is worth about ninety dollars and represents an impressive piece of collection for the archeological mind. Posted by Hello

The megalodon had a bigger mouth than the great white shark

This is a great picture that shows well how big the mouth of the prehistoric megalodon was. As you can see, the jaws of this squale were impressive. Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 08, 2005

How to prevent a shark attack?

A man in a kayak is surprised by the sudden presence of a great white shark.
Could it become a great white shark attack?Posted by Hello

To prevent a shark attack you should follow these important steps.

  • Do not swim alone as sharks are more likely to attack an individual than a group of people.

  • Do not swim to far away from the shore as it is more difficult to reach the shore or ask for help if you are further from the beach.

  • Do not swim at night, sunset or sunrise at the sharks are more active and have a sensory advantage at these times.

  • Do not go for a swim if you have an open wound or are have your menstrual period as the smell of blood can be noticed from far away and will attract sharks.

  • Avoid wearing shiny jewelry at is resembles the shine of fish scales.

  • Avoid swimming in waters where sewage from fishermen are being evacuated and where baits or feeding may be present as it attracts sharks. Seabirds are a good indicator of such activity and content.

  • Spotting porpoises do not mean that sharks are present but as both eat often the same food, you want be careful in these areas.

  • Avoid swimming in murky waters.

  • Also avoid bright colors and uneven tanning as high contrasts are easily noticed by sharks.

  • Erratic movements and excessive splashing from both humans and pets attract sharks.

  • Beware of swimming between sandbars and steep dropoffs as they represent favourite areas for sharks.

  • Do not enter water if sharks are present and get out of the water if sharks are spotted while you are there.

  • Never harass a shark!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Could that new invention be the answer to great white shark diving?

Here is a good picture of a diver riding the back of a great white shark. In his hand, he holding a rod that looks like the ones used to scare the shark away in case of a possible attack. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Great white shark found

A great white shark spent six months as the main attraction at California's Monterey Bay Aquarium after becoming the first of her species to survive more than a few weeks in captivity. But when she began devouring her tankmates, the aquarium returned her to the wild. On Saturday, an electronic tag programmed to pop off after 30 days floated to the surface and began beaming data to a research lab.

Hunting season for the endangered great white shark?

From July to December whales can be seen at the shores of South Africa. Holiday makers who have been in the Kruger National Park and are visiting the Western Cape, will be able to see all the 'BIG SIX' or even the 'BIG SEVEN'.That means besides the Big 5 (lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard and elephant), one can see whales and great white sharks as well.

The most common whale in South African waters are the Southern Right Whales. The hotspot for watching whales is generally Hermanus, but they can also be seen from the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, and it's neighbouring town Struisbaai.There are two areas where Great White are spotted, Gansbaai and Mosselbaai.

Approx. 12km offshore from Gansbaai (2hrs drive from Cape Town) there are two islands situated next to each other.Due to a number of geographical reasons - one being the shallow and narrow channel that runs between these two islands - Dyer Island has become known as one of only two unique areas in the world, where the chances to view the great white shark, rises exceptionally high. Other wildlife species such as Cape Fur Seals, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Jackass penguins, whales and dolphins are also likely to be sighted.Mossel Bay is a very rich area with its abundant sea life of diverse fish, seals, whales, penguins and other sea birds, dolphins, the occasional orca and of course a plentiful supply of the Great White shark.

The best time of the year is in April - September, when the sharks are particularly active in their feeding patterns (80-99%). Even though you still have a good chance of seeing the sharks during the other months (October - February), their feeding patterns are different and sightings are less consistent (80%).

Great white shark a threat or threatened?

For many, sharks embody the soulless predator -- silent, vicious, merciless. And for local residents, the danger can be personal -- Volusia County's beaches see more shark bites than anywhere else.

In the world's oceans, a far destructive force is at work. Sharks, once secure in their position as a sea's top predator, are now dying at the rate of more than 100 million a year. International fisheries experts predict that by 2017, nearly 20 once-thriving species will be extinct.

A study of sharks living in the western North Atlantic Ocean (the area that includes Florida's coast) found that over 15 years, populations for all shark species except one (mako sharks) have declined by more than 60 percent.

What's threatening the sea's ultimate threat? People are. The main threats to sharks are all human. Commercial fishing takes a tremendous toll, both intentionally -- sharks caught, stripped of their fins and tossed back to die -- or inadvertently -- sharks snared by fishermen angling for other species.

The rising toll shifts the symbolism of the shark -- to represent the ruthless predation of man. The same careless, profit-driven practices that kill sharks wreak havoc among countless other species, destroying the sustainability of fish populations.

Scientists identify many species of shark as "keystone" to marine ecosystems, meaning that a reduction in their numbers has wide-ranging consequence for other ocean life. Yet to date, only a few species have won protection through international preservation compacts, and U.S. laws do little to stop the carnage of sharks caught accidentally. Meanwhile, international fishing fleets continue to haul in sharks at a tremendous rate.

The United States can take the lead on this issue by toughening its own laws, and pushing for tighter controls on commercial fishing worldwide.

The alternative -- watching shark populations dwindle, with the knowledge that world fish populations are likewise diminishing -- is far worse than a frightening Sunday matinee of "Jaws."

Great white shark on its way back home

MONTEREY, Calif. The great white shark that spent a record 198 days in captivity at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is apparently making her way home.An electronic tag on the shark began transmitting data about the shark's location over the weekend _ and she appears to be heading back to the area where she was snared by halibut fishermen last year.

The shark was released on March 31st.

The first signals from the data tag arrived Saturday and pinpointed the shark about 25 miles west of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County _ 200 miles south of where she was released in Monterey County.

Great white shark's electronic tag recovered

Monterey Bay Aquarium officials announced today that the electronic tag attached to the young great white shark formerly housed at the aquarium has surfaced in Southern California waters.
The tag surfaced approximately 25 miles west of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County right on schedule, according to the aquarium's Vice President for Husbandry Randy Hamilton.

"It's very good news that the tag came free on schedule,'' Hamilton said. "We'll have to wait a while longer to learn exactly where she's been but from all indications she's doing fine back in the wild.''
Researchers will spend the next several weeks analyzing the data from the tag, which should provide details such as where the female shark traveled, the water temperatures and depths she favored.

The shark spent a record 198 days at the aquarium before being released back into the wild on March 31. Approximately 1 million aquarium visitors saw the shark during her time on display.

Great white shark facts or fiction?

GAINESVILLE -- With his two golden retrievers resting their heads in his lap, George Burgess seems gentler than one might expect for a guy who catalogs shark carnage.

Shark file Q&A

Q. What is the International Shark Attack File?

A. It's both a literal, physical file of shark attack reports -- including autopsies and medical records -- and a computer database that breaks out statistics and trends from those reports. The file's official
(or just Google "Shark Attack File") receives some 30 million hits a year.

Q. How did the International Shark Attack File begin?

A. The U.S. Navy, concerned about the number of wartime shark attacks on its sailors, hired scientists to compile known attack accounts in 1958. It financed the research for a decade, after which the file really hopped around, under the care of various researchers. It was maintained at times by scientists at Cornell University; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota; and the University of Rhode Island until finally, in 1987, it arrived at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

Q. Why would scientists want to keep files on a gruesome, sensationalist subject?

A. Partly to reduce the gruesome sensationalism, said Gregor Cailliet, a professor at California's Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. "Were not a credible organization keeping good records, many of which have to be seriously investigated to test their veracity, a lot of liberty could be taken with shark attacks and rumors associated with them." And partly to understand better how and when sharks attack, in order to keep bad human-shark interactions at a minimum. Data from the file has shown that wearing jewelry and bright colors can attract sharks and that sharks are more likely to attack under certain conditions than others.

Did you know?

Although "finning" - taking the fins for use in shark fin soup and discarding the rest of the shark - is widespread in open ocean shark hunting, the top five endangered species of shark have become scarce for other reasons.

· The top two endangered species, the whale shark and basking shark, are also the two largest. Found in tropical waters, they are hunted because they yield a lot of meat.

· River sharks, which swim into freshwater from the Indian Ocean, are vulnerable to human interaction and modification to their habitat.

· Sand sharks, called gray nurse and ragged tooth sharks in other parts of the world, are mistakenly caught during commercial fishing or are killed by divers.

· The great white shark, the largest predatory shark, is considered vulnerable because it is hunted in large numbers by humans. Although prized as a trophy, the white shark is also hunted for its meat, skin, liver oil and fins.

Florida Museum of Natural History Yet a laid-back, amiable nature helps Burgess, perhaps the nation's most visible shark scientist and frequently quoted expert on shark attacks, plead a strong case for the conservation of sharks, even as he's explaining why one swam off with a chunk of surfer leg.

And finally, 30 years after the movie "Jaws" sent shark-human relations into a tailspin, his message is starting to penetrate.

Burgess, 55, is director of the Florida Museum of Natural History's shark research program. He has figured out why deep-water lantern sharks blink in the dark (they're pointing the way to their sex organs). He is lately helping list every catfish species on Earth. He has described tiny sharks off Venezuela, a type of guppy in Haiti and a bass in the Apalachicola River; he's authored some 150 papers and advised governments and fisheries on shark harvests.

To the world, though, he's the shark attack guy. When sharks attack, Burgess soothes with statistics and facts -- for example, that sharks kill only 10 people a year, and none (so far) in Volusia County's surfline.

Burgess is curator of the International Shark Attack File, a collection of investigations of nearly 4,000 attacks since the 1950s -- some fatal, some not, all investigated and verified.
The file, closed to the press and the public, "is not exactly cutting-edge science," he said. It doesn't make any money, either.

It is nonetheless a subject of major public interest, without which Burgess would have few chances to proselytize for the endangered members of the elasmobranch order -- which includes sharks, skates, and rays.

"It's part of why I endure some 500 interviews a year," he said as he endured another in his living room recently. "How could I live as a scientist without taking that opportunity?"

Not everyone likes the philosophy. "Suggesting that the International Shark Attack File promotes shark conservation because the data show that sharks are not very dangerous is a bit like recommending tourists visit New York City because there were 15 percent fewer murders last year," said R. Aidan Martin, a shark researcher in Vancouver.

But many say the file's thorough, verified, clinical accounts have helped keep rumors and hysteria in check -- benefiting people and sharks alike.

Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said he's a fan of Burgess' approach. When media start circling, "It's always admirable when he's able to not only answer those questions but redirect attention to the bigger story -- the ecological status of sharks."


On Tuesday, when Burgess gives a talk to University of Florida alumni in Daytona Beach, he expects an audience that's fairly "enlightened"; i.e., levelheaded about sharks. The talk, on "The International Shark Attack File: Lessons Learned & Future Research" at the University of Central Florida Auditorium, Building 150, Room 101, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., is open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Burgess will spend half his time speaking on the biology and natural history of sharks, and how their slow maturation and low reproductive rates leave them vulnerable to overfishing, with most shark populations now depressed by 40 to 80 percent.

He will then talk about the shark attack file, and what patterns have emerged over a half-century's worth of data -- what people were wearing and doing when attacked; how the sharks behaved; what conditions of waves, tides, and temperature converged.

Volusia County is shark bite central. Bites are more common here than in any other 50-mile stretch of beach on the planet. If anyone should be jaded about shark attacks, and ready to move on, it's Volusia and Flagler residents.

"But during the Q&A period I can guarantee you," Burgess said, "it will be heavily skewed toward shark attacks," not natural history or conservation.

The fear of being gnawed on by a large cartilaginous fish may just be something in our genes. He'd get the same reaction, he said, if he were speaking to fishermen in Brazil, or aboriginals in New Zealand. "Not everyone has seen 'Jaws.' "


That movie -- which came out in the summer of 1975, when Burgess was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina -- proved a double-edged sword for shark scientists.

"Jaws" increased interest and funding for shark science, in turn launching a generation of shark biologists. It also led to a surge in recreational shark fishing that had devastating outcomes.

On the east coast of the United States, "there was a collective testosterone rush in 1975," he said. "Shark fishing was basically blue-collar fishing," and sharks, unlike large billfish, could be caught without a boat. "Any schmuck with a reasonably sized reel and a cooler for beer could reel in a shark and get a jaw for the mantelpiece. It was an easy thing, and sharks couldn't take the pressure." Shark-fishing tournaments were shut down when catches went from hundreds to a handful.

And those were just the homegrown threats. Just as shark fishing lost its allure here, China -- which has traditionally savored sharkfin soup -- was growing richer and better able to afford the expensive fins. Asian fisherman finned sharks and dumped their otherwise-intact bodies overboard, killing them.

Longlining, a commercial fishing practice aimed at tuna and swordfish, but which snags sharks anyway, has in recent years done even more to depress their populations.

Recommending protective measures for sharks is a large part of what Burgess does as a vice chairman of the World Conservation Union's shark specialist group. In the early 1990s, U.S. fisheries adopted the first shark-protection rules. But they're not all enforced, and rulemaking is a frustrating process, he said, as scientists' counsel is balanced against fishing interests -- even when the balance is unsustainable.

"In college I worked as a commercial fisherman," he said. "It's hard work and it's underpaid. But the problem is that there's too many fishers and their equipment is so darned good."
A better bet than balancing what can't be balanced, he said, is setting hard limits and guiding fishermen out of unsustainable fisheries and into sustainable ones.


Yet sharks' public image has improved, even as their populations have crashed.
The term "man-eating" is no longer a required prefix in newspaper headlines. The latest shark-horror flick, the made-for-TV "Spring Break Shark Attack," hardly aroused the cultural response "Jaws" did.

The old argument that sharks eat desirable game fish -- and that reducing the shark population would increase the amount of grouper and tuna on the market -- is seldom heard nowadays as a justification for killing them willy-nilly.

It's true that they eat tasty game fish, Burgess said, but it's not the point -- each animal, even a top predator, has its place in the ecosystem. It's there because it's supposed to be.
Burgess and his staff work tirelessly, through education campaigns and public outreach, to promote the virtues of sharks, or at least their right to exist. Though even he admits there's no knowing what would happen if sharks blinked out entirely.

"Usually the loss of any one category could have ramifications through the ecosystem, but we don't know what would change. Losses are most severely felt the further down the food chain," he said. "If you lost the copepods" -- tiny marine crustaceans -- "all hell would break loose." The loss of a top predator might not have such an effect.

"But sharks are a piece of the jigsaw puzzle," he said. And in all their charisma and deadly fascination, they make splendid poster children for troubled oceans. "If sharks are in trouble, what's happening in the sea?"

Plus he'd rather be the shark guy, at any rate, than the copepod guy.

Invention could fend off sharks

Unexpected things can come up on you rather suddenly. Vladimir Vlad, an expatriate Romanian who immigrated to South Africa in 1990, discovered that for himself while scuba diving off the South African coast. He had several encounters with "carcharadon," the Latin word for a much more familiar term - the Great White Shark.

Not only were the meetings unnerving in themselves, they also got Vlad worried about his son, Sasha, who enjoys surfing in the shark-infested ocean near Capetown. Vlad was called to Iowa two years ago to help the Des Moines Menace soccer team with planning for a sports festival, which was part of a campaign to build a new sports stadium. He later decided to import his company, and he selected the Iowa State University Research Park as a location.

After moving to Ames, and mindful of the potential danger to Sasha, Vlad developed an idea for a scuba diver's wet suit that would project electric current to ward off overly curious (or hungry) sharks. There are already items like this on the market. A battery-operated model marketed in Australia, for example, can generate four volts. But it's cumbersome.

The current is projected from a long electrode, and the diver must carry the heavy battery, which frequently has to be recharged. But Vlad's invention will generate up to 25 volts and require no battery at all. Instead, the movements of the diver's body, combined with a special substance of "Electroceramics" materials and Terfenol-D (manufactured by nearby Etrema Products Inc.) will produce the power to ward off sharks.

It's one of three inventions being developed by Glycon Technologies, a business founded by a remarkable inventor who holds a PhD in biomechanics and kinesiology. Vlad's other two inventions, now in various stages of development, include the "E-tire" and a fermentation process to separate collagen from eggs.

The "E-tire," a standard passenger vehicle tire equipped with the same current-developing substance as the wet suit. With a pad of current-generating material placed inside the tire, it will be possible for the movement of the tire (and its pressure on the road) to produce an electrical current, which could be harvested and stored by mechanisms carried onboard the vehicle and used to propel it without the use of conventional fuels.

The fermentation process separates collagen membranes from the inside of eggshells. Harvested collagen could be sold to medical customers for things like tissue regeneration, wound care products such as sealants and dressings, or facial implants. "Much of the collagen on the market now comes from bovine and porcine sources (cattle and hogs)," said Vlad. He said that bovine collagen now costs more than $2,600 per gram, and recombinant human collagen from a company in Finland is priced at $1,500 per gram.

Avian collagen (from chicken eggs) is also useful for human medical procedures, but it's been difficult to extract from the inside of the eggshells. Vlad predicts that his process will produce usable collagen within 48 hours. And every 10 eggs would produce a gram of collagen. "Iowa leads the nation in eggshell waste," said Vlad. "And it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to landfill the eggshells."

Vlad has made his presence in central Iowa felt in other ways. Using his knowledge of kinesiology, Vlad has developed physiological profiles of soccer players in Ames, Des Moines and Drake University. The complicated spread sheets delineate a host of body and skeletal characteristics of each player. Vlad says it's possible to select the best position for a soccer player depending on his or her body characteristics.

A former soccer coach, Vlad assembled teams from the poverty-stricken black townships of South Africa and turned them into international champions, including two titles earned in the United States. It was through soccer that Vlad became acquainted with the man who would eventually become his chief financial officer. John Brandt of Des Moines had experience as regional vice president for a national medical company that operates worker compensation clinics. He was also involved with a semiprofessional soccer team in Des Moines, and has known Vlad for most of two years.

"Our company is going to market intellectual property," said Brandt. "In that respect, we're different from other companies in the Research Park. We have multiple patents and are looking for clients who want to take the ideas and run with them. We could always industrialize one of these ideas ourselves, but it's more cost-effective to do it this way." Brandt has been deeply involved in discussions with companies that could be end-users of Glycon's intellectual property. For now, Glycon is moving forward with developing its ideas. For example: ¨ A prototype for the electric shark repellent wet suit is now being tested by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Vlad's son, Sasha, has developed a PowerPoint presentation describing the E-tire and work is being done on a mechanism that would be most efficient at harvesting the electrical current that the moving tire will generate. Experts at ISU and Indian Hills College are helping to test various aspects of the eggshell collagen-extracting process.

Iowa State University is proving to be an invaluable partner in other ways as well. "We have access to highly qualified people and fully-equipped labs, at a very reasonable price," Vlad said.

He has also hired two student-interns, Chris Poutre, a chemical engineering major, and Mitch Schultz, an electrical engineering major. Each of intern is responsible for one of the pilot projects. Poutre will work on collagen extraction, while Schultz is working on the E-tire.