Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has announced the launch of Operation Reef Defense, a global campaign to end the destruction of coral reefs and the many threats they face worldwide.
Coral reefs represent some of the planet’s most biologically diverse ecosystems providing critical habitat to approximately 25 percent of all marine species, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human-induced activities such as pollution, overfishing, reef wildlife trafficking, coastal development and global warming. Thirty percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 50 years, and another 30 percent have suffered severe damage. Of the reefs remaining, it is estimated that 60 percent could face extinction in less than 25 years.
According to Sea Shepherd Hawaii Director & Reef Defense Campaign Leader, Deborah Bassett, “With the oceans of the world under attack from commercial extraction and pollution, our mission remains steadfast to defend marine habitat and wildlife to the fullest extent — from the smallest of reef species to the largest marine mammals and apex predators. Time is running out for these great rain forests under the sea, so we must act now.”
Although Sea Shepherd is best known for its direct action efforts on the high seas, Sea Shepherd remains committed to protecting marine wildlife in all habitats, including the coastal awareness campaign orchestrated for Operation Reef Defense. Sea Shepherd plans to collaborate with Hawaiian dive shops and the surfing community to bring light to the destruction happening beneath the waves. With the campaign currently underway in Hawaii, Sea Shepherd’s global chapters will soon mirror similar programs in their local waters.
Reef degradation is a global crisis. Of the 100 countries with coral reefs, reef degradation is highest in Southeast Asia where nearly 95 percent of the region’s reefs are threatened, mainly due to overfishing and destructive fishing practices. The loss of underwater life and habitat is also ever-present in our own backyard of Hawaii, where the top ten sought-after species of fish for aquariums have decreased by 59 percent over the last 20 years, while the most popular aquarium fish has declined in abundance from 38 to 57 percent. In Jamaica, it is estimated that almost all of the reefs are dead or severely degraded from overfishing and coastal pollution.
Sea Shepherd’s Vice President Robert Wintner, a veteran campaigner against the aquarium trade and its devastating impact to Hawaiian reefs stated, “Sea Shepherd will champion marine habitat and wildlife from the ravages of urban and corporate effluent and the destruction caused by the aquarium trade. Massive reef wildlife dies every year as disposable ornamentation in the vicious cycle of wildlife trafficking for the pet trade. Death generates continuing demand, driving the aquarium trade to strip reefs bare. Over 25 million sea creatures are in the commercial aquarium pipeline at any given moment – and nearly all will die within a year from the point of capture.”
“Sea Shepherd is very much concerned for this wildlife and needs public support to translate these concerns into action. We may lose support from people who keep captive marine wildlife for a hobby, but as Captain Paul Watson has stated — our clients are the creatures of the sea. We hope that all people who are concerned for the oceans will recognize the importance of protecting reef eco-systems worldwide, and that if any of our supporters do keep marine wildlife in an aquarium, they will care for the wildlife they have and refrain from purchasing any more,” Wintner added.
Coral reefs simply cannot support continued unlimited resource usage or unmanaged global trade. Such drastic ongoing decline of healthy reefs will pose serious consequences for animals both on land and in the water and people worldwide.
The life of a Great White Shark
The great white shark, known scientifically as Carcharodon carcharias, embodies the apex predator of the ocean. This majestic creature’s life is a testament to survival, adaptability, and the intricate balance of the marine ecosystem.
Born in the waters off coastal regions, a great white shark begins its life as a pup within the safety of nurseries, typically found in warm, shallow waters. The pups, measuring around 5 feet in length at birth, are immediately equipped with an innate instinct for survival.
As they grow, great whites embark on a journey, venturing into deeper and cooler waters, often covering vast distances across the ocean. These apex predators are perfectly adapted hunters, relying on their impressive senses to detect prey. Their acute sense of smell, aided by specialized sensory organs known as ampullae of Lorenzini, helps detect the faintest traces of blood in the water from several miles away.
Feeding primarily on seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals, great whites are known for their powerful jaws lined with rows of razor-sharp teeth. Their hunting techniques often involve stealth, utilizing their streamlined bodies to approach prey from below and striking with incredible speed and force.
Despite their fearsome reputation, great whites play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As top predators, they help regulate the population of prey species, preventing overpopulation that could disrupt the balance of the food chain.
Reproduction among great white sharks is a slow and careful process. Females reach sexual maturity between 12 and 18 years of age, while males mature earlier, around 9 to 10 years old. Mating occurs through complex courtship rituals, with females giving birth to a small number of live pups after a gestation period of about 12 to 18 months.
However, the life of a great white shark is not without challenges. Human activities, including overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, pose significant threats to their population. Additionally, despite their formidable presence, great whites are vulnerable and face dangers from entanglement in fishing gear and accidental bycatch.
Despite these challenges, great white sharks continue to inspire awe and fascination among scientists and nature enthusiasts. Their presence in the ocean serves as a reminder of the delicate balance and interconnectedness of marine life, emphasizing the need for conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations to admire and study.
Want to learn more about sharks? Visit The Shark Trust website: www.sharktrust.org
Book Review: Sea Mammals
This is a book packed with information about some of the most iconic and charismatic marine species. I have a particular soft spot for the pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, due to some incredible diving encounters over the years. So these were the pages I first turned to.
Once picked up this book is hard to put down. Polar Bears, Narwhal, Sea Otters, manatees, whales and dolphins adorn the pages with beautiful photographs and illustrations. Each turn of the page lures you in to discover more about a species you love, one you want to learn more about, some you have never heard of and even includes the details of fascinating animals that are sadly now extinct.
I think what I love most about this book is how it is organised. Rather than simply lump the animals into taxonomic groupings, they are put into chapters that tell you a story about them. Whether it is the story of their evolution, how they were discovered, their biology, behaviour or need for conservation. Once you have decided on an animal to delve deeper into, each species has its own story, as well as key information about size, diet, distribution, habitat and conservation status.
There is plenty to enjoy in this delightful book. Plenty to learn too. As the cold dark nights draw in, I can see myself delving into this book time and time again. This is a perfect gift for anyone that loves the ocean and its inhabitants. Or just treat yourself.
What the publisher says:
From the gregarious sea otter and playful dolphins to the sociable narwhal and iconic polar bear, sea mammals are a large, diverse, and increasingly precious group. In this book, Annalisa Berta, a leading expert on sea mammals and their evolution, presents an engaging and richly illustrated introduction to past and present species of these remarkable creatures, from the blue whale and the northern fur seal to the extinct giant sperm whale, aquatic sloth, and walking sea cow.
The book features more than 50 individual species profiles, themed chapters, stunning photographs, and specially commissioned paleo-illustrations of extinct species. It presents detailed accounts of these mammals’ evolutionary path, anatomy, behavior, habitats, and conservation. And because these are key species that complete many food chains and have the widest influence of all sea life, the book also offers insights into a broad variety of marine worlds today and in the future.
About the Author:
Annalisa Berta is professor emerita of biology at San Diego State University. A specialist in the anatomy and evolutionary biology of marine mammals, especially baleen whales, she formally described a skeleton of the early pinniped Enaliarctos. She is the author of Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals and the editor of the award-winning Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Published: 26th September, 2023
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