The most dangerous predator in the water
By Paula Moore
Following reports of shark sightings and encounters up and down the East Coast this summer — not to mention a viral video showing a great white shark leaping out of the water to snatch a fish off a boy’s line—some beachgoers are having second thoughts about going for a swim.
But it’s important to know that the most dangerous predator in the water isn’t the shark. No, that dubious distinction belongs to humans.
Sharks get a bad rap. While there are a handful of well-publicized shark attacks around the world every year, humans pose the much bigger threat. We slaughter nearly 100 million sharks each year and consume more fish — trillions of them — annually than all other types of animals combined.
Our insatiable appetites are taking a toll. A new study published in the journal PLOS Biology found that killing sharks for their flesh and fins has caused their populations to plummet across the globe. Sharks are rarer — and significantly smaller — in areas with large human populations and associated fishing fleets.
Another recent study, in the journal Nature, found that because sharks and commercial fishing vessels tend to frequent the same areas, sharks have few safe havens left. Even if they’re not targeted directly, they’re at risk of becoming “bycatch” victims—unintentionally swept up in the nets of the commercial fishing industry, just like dolphins, turtles, seals and other marine animals.
Since most sharks grow and mature slowly, have long gestation periods (up to two years) and produce few young, they’re particularly vulnerable to the pressures of commercial fishing.
And contrary to the portrayal of sharks as mindless eating machines in movies, they actually have unique personalities, and they socialize and form friendships, just like us. Porbeagle sharks have been observed playing with objects floating in the water, repeatedly rolling themselves up in kelp fronds and chasing after other sharks who trailed pieces of kelp behind them. Biologist Peter Best once witnessed several great whites working together to move the carcass of a partially beached whale to deeper waters so that they could eat it. Sharks have long-term memories, they teach each other how to find food, they like AC/DC (google it) and they feel pain.
They also naturally shun contact with humans. But during the summer tourist season, when more of us invade their natural homes, there is an increase in shark encounters. Just remember, though, that you’re more likely to die while taking a selfie than you are by being bitten by a shark.
And while we’re on the subject, let’s spare a thought for the other marine animals who also wish we would stay out of the water. Fish form emotional attachments and become depressed when they lose their mates. They are savvy social learners, develop cultural traditions, use tools and play. They also feel pain.
Most fish commonly served in restaurants and supermarkets are caught using huge — often miles-long — commercial fishing nets that scrape the ocean floors, also trapping unintended animals (the “bycatch” mentioned above). When hauled up from the deep, fish are often crushed to death and their eyeballs bulge out of their heads because of the pressure change caused by suddenly surfacing. Others are gutted while still alive.
Whether you venture into the water this summer or stay on solid land, there’s a simple way to make the oceans a little safer for all living beings: Steer clear of the seafood buffet.
Easy-to-Make School Lunches:
So many cats in Worcester, America – around the world🌎! – aren’t so lucky! PETA to the rescue!:
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From PETA, more good news:
Progress for Captive Elephants! AZA Zoos Ditch Bullhooks!
August 21, 2019, by Danny Prater
Progress for captive elephants!
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) just announced a new policy to phase out the use of bullhooks — heavy batons with a sharp metal hook on one end — to train or control elephants in zoos. The long-overdue AZA bullhook ban will end the routine use of these weapons by January 21, 2021, and end all use of them by January 1, 2023. In the policy, the AZA states that “bullhooks are not acceptable as daily management tools.” It also says that a “strong majority” of AZA zoos have already stopped using bullhooks and support getting rid of them. We couldn’t agree more.
Bullhooks are used to beat and jab elephants. During training, elephants are struck, jabbed, poked, prodded, and even beaten with this sharp weapon. Eventually, even the sight of it elicits fear and full compliance. Bullhooks are frequently used by circus handlers, but you may be surprised to learn that zoos also have a history of using these cruel devices to control elephants.
This bullhook ban has been years in the making. Nearly a decade ago, in August 2010, the AZA announced a policy to end what’s known as “free contact” management of elephants, in which handlers work directly alongside elephants and are always armed with a bullhook, as is done in the circus. Instead, keepers were required to be separated from the animals by a protective barrier, except in limited circumstances. In this form of management, called “protected” or “restricted contact,” elephants are trained using rewards—not punishment—and can choose whether or not they want to participate in training. That policy—which was characterized as a worker-safety measure instead of an animal welfare initiative—was phased in over many years and was in full effect by 2017. However, the policy did not go so far as to ban the use of bullhooks entirely. While many zoos haven’t used these weapons in years, a few have continued to do so, even in cases of restricted contact.
This decision marks a watershed moment for captive elephants and relegates zoos’ use of bullhooks — which cause fear and are already illegal in many cities and two states — to the history books. PETA has campaigned long and hard against the use of these cruel weapons and looks forward to seeing the AZA continue to make positive changes for elephants, including by opposing the importation of ones taken from their homelands and families
Happy elephants playing together!♥️