An eight-foot great white shark stuck her dorsal fin out just long enough to say hi to Maryland’s coast yesterday.
One fisherman in Ocean City got the chance of a lifetime yesterday when a giant filter-feeding shark swam right up to his boat.
It seems winning 23 gold medals just wasn’t enough for Towson native Michael Phelps. The all-time great Olympian swimmer is reportedly jumping back in the water for Shark Week this summer.
Mary Lee, a 3,456 pound great white shark, was spotted off the coast of Maryland this week.
Readers, I apologize for adding to your nightmare file: sharks have been found swimming in the Potomac River. Eight-foot long, 200-pound bull sharks, to be exact; they’re called bull sharks because they’re known for being aggressive and unpredictable. They can survive just fine in freshwater — they’ve been spotted in the Mississippi River as far north as Illinois (!!). And they like to fight: experts think that most near-shore shark attacks can be blamed on the bull shark.
When Discovery Channel’s Shark Week debuted in 1987 it was little more than straightforward educational cable TV, designed to increase understanding about sharks. Now it draws 30 million viewers and has become a pop cultural phenomenon, inspiring nail art, shoes and cupcakes! There’s even talk of getting our own Michael Phelps on Shark Week 2013. (“We’d love to get the two most powerful water superstars together,” Eileen O’Neill, group president of Discovery and TLC, told Entertainment Weekly.) But the city already has a connection to Shark Week: Andy Dehart of Baltimore’s National Aquarium has served for years as a consultant on the popular week-long series. Last year, Sr. Editor B. Boyd caught up with Dehart. We’re re-running the interview below, in honor of the “second holiest national holiday next to the week after Christmas,” as Stephen Colbert calls it. – The Eds.
Discovery Channel Shark Advisor Andy Dehart met his first shark up close at age five, while snorkeling in the Florida Keys with his father.
“Having it swim by without being aggressive changed my life,” Dehart says.
It’s easy to want to preserve populations of cute endangered species, but what about ugly animals? What about ugly animals that scare you?
Populations of large sharks off the East Coast have been reduced by 90 percent from their stable, historic numbers. And this is a bad thing. For one, the predator’s precipitous decline fueled a steep increase in the number of cownose rays in the Chesapeake that wreaked havoc on our oysters.
Now, if it were up to me, we’d start hunting and eating cownose rays to keep the populations level, but some lawmakers in Annapolis think they know better. They’ve proposed a bill targeting the shark fin trade specifically, joining four other states in banning the trade of the delicacy. Each year, somewhere between 26 million and 73 million sharks are killed for their fins worldwide. But, as you might expect, Maryland accounts for an awfully small percentage of the fin market.
Opponents of the shark-protection bill include restaurateurs, grocers, fishermen, and — I’m assuming — people who watched Jaws too young and still get nightmares. Even our secretary of natural resources, John R. Griffin, has come out against the bill, on the grounds that it will unnecessarily inhibit our local commercial fishermen, since they would be catching sharks whole, but be restricted from selling the fins.
On the other side, proponents of the measure are hopeful that reducing demand for the product, will be an effective way of reducing shark mortality worldwide.
It’s the story of a lovely lady, Zoe, 12, a zebra shark, who had swum solo for some time inside the National Aquarium’s Wings in the Water exhibit, mingling with other fishes, sure, seemingly social, true, but in one sense living alone, without another zebra shark to call her similarly wacky-looking water family (extra-long tail, spotted body, big smiling face). All that changed recently when Zeke, age two, left the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to take up residence at the National Aquarium, smack dab in Zoe’s high-profile tank. We’re more interested in their potential May-December coupling than that of Demi and Ashton any day, and so consulted our favorite shark expert Andy Dehart, the aquarium’s director of fishes and aquatic invertebrates — and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week adviser — about Zeke and Zoe’s future friendship, including romantic possibilities that could bubble up.
Why was Zeke, who took up residence at the National Aquarium in 2010, only this month introduced to the public and fish-crazy paparazzi, via the Wings exhibit?
Zeke’s ready now at age two. He’s swimming with some very large rays, roughtail and southern stingrays with about six-foot wingspans. The sharks that live in there need to be a certain size to make their presence known at feed time.
Who has taken care of young Zeke? Or would you say shark-sat?
Our main aquarist Colleen Newburg is his day-to-day caretaker. Now that he’s in the exhibit, he sees volunteer divers twice a day. They help with [pole-]feeding, cleaning, and maintenance.
Do you think Zeke misses his mother?
Sharks receive no maternal care.
Are female and male sharks different personality-wise?
Nope, not much difference between male and female [shark] personalities. Each shark has a personality, though. Zoe is very curious: She always comes over when there’s activity. Zeke is a unique character — [he’s not a baby]; I would call him a juvenile.
Who named Zoe and Zeke?
My wife named Zoe when she was an aquarist here! Technically speaking, they actually have numbers as names–the real way we ID is with an ID number built by the first letter of the genus, the first of the species, the year we got that animal and the order. Zeke is also known as SF 10-1. Our staff are very passionate about the animals, of course, [and about naming them]. Colleen Newburg named Zeke.
Describe the striking physical transformation the zebra shark completes as he/she matures.
When they’re born out of an egg, they are solid black with vertical white stripes — the black fades to mustard yellow, while the stripes become yellow spots like on a leopard. This is why they’re also called leopard sharks. They also get really pronounced ridges on their backs, and have super long tales. The face of a zebra shark is like a big Cabbage Patch Kid!
Despite their age difference, will Zeke and Zoe mate?
They could mate.The age difference matters now — Zeke isn’t old enough right now to want to do that. It’s possible later. With a lot of these sharks, it can take eight to 14 years to mature. So, Zeke has a little growing up to do before it’s time to date.
Does the Aquarium hope they’ll hook up eventually?
It’s one thing we always look at. How can we breed instead of using wild specimens? Zebras have done well with breeding and mating. A long-term goal is breed them…
The Wings in the Water exhibit will be expanded and reinvented in the next year or so. Can you give us a hint about the new and improved show tank?
Both Zoe and Zeke will be featured! Sharks, rays, too, and we’ll be upping the number of sharks and unique animals…
This one’s just too good not to mention: if you have a free half-day and a healthy abundance of bravery (oh yeah, and $250), you can spend this weekend tagging sharks off the coast of Ocean City, courtesy of the National Aquarium.
Sure, it’s educational (shark tagging helps scientists who study sharks’ migration, age and growth, and behavior). But it will probably also be pretty fun. The trip is led by Captain Mark Sampson, whose website is a hoot: “The draw of shark fishing is the mystery and excitement of waiting and wondering what size and type of shark is working its way up the chum slick. A mako? A tiger? A monster or a minnow? When you’re messing with sharks, anything’s possible!”
We hope that “anything” doesn’t include being mauled by one of those aforementioned “monsters”…Sorry, just saw JAWS on the big screen for the first time thanks to the Charles’ revival series. Don’t mind me. Gather your chum pails and slather on the sunscreen; it’s time for you to have a shark saga of your very own.
(The details: trips run either from 7 AM-noon, or 1-6 PM on both Saturday and Sunday. If you’re a member of the aquarium, it’ll cost you $200; for the rest of us, $250. To reserve a spot, call 410-727-FISH.)