Emperors of the Deep-The Shark
Monthly Newsletter
May 2020
Sharks are now facing the greatest threat to their existence in their 450 million-year history. This newsletter, Emperors of the Deep, shines a spotlight on the key issues affecting sharks. In addition, we discuss the exciting new scientific discoveries about them.
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Great White Shark Connection - No Social Distancing Here

This remarkable photo was taken by my friend Chris Fallows. You can listen to my interview with Chris about great whites on my shark podcast here. South African born, Chris Fallows is an expert on the great white shark and their hunting habits. He has amassed the largest database of predatory events involving great white sharks in False Bay and was the first member of the scientific community to observe their breaching behavior.
Chris was recently filming great whites for Shark Week in New Zealand and has made some unique observations. The key surprise of New Zealand great white sharks is that they are abnormally comfortable at close proximity to one another. The currently accepted view is that great white sharks are aloof and often lonesome, avoiding close contact with others. Size hierarchy plays an important part in great white shark behavior and dominant sharks can scare off their brethren. However, there is another side of the coin that great whites have a remarkable sociability.
Over the course of ten days, Chris observed the individual sharks; he observed that they were quite comfortable with each other. It was almost as if they were one big extended family, each knowing their own position in the hierarchy yet mingling at extremely close quarters. Throughout his trip, great white sharks would swim comfortably side by side, almost as if they were enjoying each other’s company.
In this photo above, he watched as two great whites were literally piggy backed without either showing any signs of discomfort. Usually the shark that is above and has its vulnerable belly exposed quickly gives way or displays submissive body language, not here though. He took other photos where we could get four or five sharks together in the same frame. This iconic shark and wildlife imagery can be found at his website.

I wanted to highlight this photo because in my book, Emperors of the Deep-The Shark, I discuss in a chapter the social lives of sharks that scientists are uncovering. For example, a study of lemon sharks in the Bahamas showed that they can travel with a fellow brethren on a consistent basis. The evidence is mounting that we need to recognize that sharks possess a sociability that we are only beginning to appreciate.

Great Barrier Reef- Bleaching Is Back

Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its third coral bleaching event in five years. The 2020 bleaching is severe, and more widespread than earlier events.

“We surveyed 1,036 reefs from the air during the last two weeks in March, to measure the extent and severity of coral bleaching throughout the Barrier Reef region,” said Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

“For the first time, severe bleaching has struck all three regions of the Great Barrier Reef – the northern, central and now large parts of the southern sectors,” Prof Hughes said.

Coral bleaching at regional scales is caused by thermal stress due to spikes in sea temperatures during unusually hot summers. The first recorded mass bleaching event along the Great Barrier Reef occurred in 1998, then the hottest year on record. Four more mass bleaching events have occurred since—as more temperature records were broken—in 2002, 2016, 2017, and now in 2020.

This year, February had the highest monthly temperatures ever recorded on the Great Barrier Reef since the Bureau of Meteorology’s sea surface temperature records began in 1900.

COVID 19 Reducing Fishing Pressure
In the past few decades, overfishing has reduced the world’s fish stocks to record-low levels. A 2019 study published in Science, determined that climate change was diminishing fish populations in some areas by 35%. Meanwhile, overfishing has reduced Pacific bluefin tuna and Mediterranean swordfish by about 90% compared to their pre-industrial fishing populations. 
The spread of COVID-19 has forced a significant slowdown on commercial fishing around the world. However, there is a flip side. Most European fish stocks (whitefish, flatfish, herring) will nearly double their biomass within one year without fishing. So coronavirus will lead to an increase in fish biomass, according to Rainer Froese of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany. He predicts that this could benefit about 40% of the stocks currently being overfished. Such an impact has happened before. Fishing activity was slashed during World War I and II. 

Ocean Currents Shift 

Ocean currents are critical to life on Earth by redistributing the heat and energy that comes in from the sun. New research from the Alfred Wegener Institute finds that global warming is pushing the ocean circulatory system poleward. Ocean currents on Earth are driven in two different ways. One way is by the winds. The second way is by differences in density when some waters in the ocean are denser than others; that will force the denser waters to move under the lighter waters. And that also generates especially deep ocean currents.

Because of the increasing heat, the winds in the atmosphere are shifting. And because the winds are responsible for where the surface currents are, as those winds shift, the surface currents will also shift. The data shows there's been a shift poleward of some of the biggest currents, which means they are going to carry their nutrients elsewhere. Depending on the ocean transport of those nutrients to a particular region, nutrients will disperse to new areas affecting marine ecosystems. More information here


Paperback To Be Released May 26
The paperback, Emperors of the Deep-The Shark, reveals many exciting new discoveries on sharks and why we need these magnificent apex predators. The reader will learn new insights into great whites, hammerheads, tigers and others.
The paperback will be available May 26. Go to my book website here, for more information on the book.
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Watch the book trailer here
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Copyright © 2020 William McKeever, All rights reserved.

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