Changing Planet

Shark Tales Are Hot Summer Fare

shark photo 1.jpg

“An image that I had always dreamed of…a white shark in mid-flight coming straight toward me in full battle cry,” is how Chris Fallows described this scene in South Africa’s coastal waters. His photo is part of the most popular gallery published in the seven-year history of National Geographic News. Now these breaching sharks are back in the news (see the video in the extended entry below).

Photo courtesy Apex Predators,“Home of the breaching great whites”

National Geographic News knows this time of year as the “summer slump.” Schools are out and many people are on vacation, so there is a dip in the number of visitors to our site. We look harder for stories we know draw crowds.

So it’s this time of year that we and others in the media look to sharks.

Sharks are popular any time of the year. But when it’s beach season and millions of people are enjoying the ocean, sharks are perhaps more front of mind, especially when a bather gets nipped.

The danger is more imagined than real.

Our Sharks Facts story of 2005 revealed that the United States averages just 16 shark attacks each year and slightly less than one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 41 people each year.

On the flip side, as many as 100,000,000 sharks die each year because of fishing, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. This devastates ocean ecosystems and coastal economies that depend on them.

The ugliest part of this is that an enormous number of sharks are killed for no purpose. Last year National Geographic News reported that at least 7.8 million sharks are killed off southern Africa each year by hooks intended for other animals–wanton destruction of an ancient predator that can have no good outcome for us.

National Geographic Channel tonight airs Sharkville, a new documentary about the great white sharks of southern Africa. Here, courtesy of NGC, is a clip from the film. What we’re seeing is the first documentation of great whites hunting at night.

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The science behind the remarkable hunting behavior documented in this footage is reported today in our story Great White Shark Filmed Breaching at Night — A First. Our gallery Photographing Africa’s Flying Sharks and the story will tell you more about the technique these sharks evolved to snatch seals from the air.

There’s much more for us to marvel about sharks than their power and ferocity. Understanding their behavior, as the scientist featured in Sharkville is trying to do, will help teach us how to coexist more peacefully with them. We have to learn to do this because sharks help our planet stay healthy.

Related shark stories in the news today:

  • Shark! The Great White (Washington Post Q&A with Ryan Johnson, the scientist featured in the National Geographic documentary Sharkville.)
Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • lvsharks

    Can wait to get more info…

  • sarwing suryanto

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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