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SYLLY: Shark Week 31 Night 5: Science!

Night 5 brought us an actual night full of shark research, no movies or people drifting like tea bags in the ocean, real scientists doing sciencey stuff to learn about sharks and help keep humans safe in the water.

Return to Shark Island

Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean has been experiencing more and more shark encounters beginning in 2011. It is actually illegal to enter the water there. The waters are considered too dangerous for humans. It is the fatal shark attack capital of the world. Since 2011 there have been 23 shark encounters leaving 11 dead.

Dr. Craig O’Connel has traveled back to Reunion Island to test his net-less electro magnetic shark barrier. The government has issued orders to slaughter all sharks off the coast in response to the shark crisis. In the 23 encounters almost all of the sharks involved were bull sharks. Bull sharks have very small eyes and prefer to live in murky water, they have unusually sensitive ampullae of Lorenzini (special sensing organs called electroreceptors, forming a network of jelly-filled pores.) that leads them to their prey, so they may have no clue what they are eating. Bull sharks also have the highest testosterone level of any animal on the planet so they are extremely aggressive. The bull sharks of the Indian Ocean are also unique in that they are larger than any others in the world. Scientists believe they are evolving into a new species, the mega bull shark.

Previous to 2011 bull sharks were only seen on the East side of the island where the freshwater dumped into the ocean, since 2011 a massive underground irrigation system has changed the flow of the freshwater on the island creating the perfect conditions for bull sharks on all sides. Before they were isolated to where the surfers and bathers were not common. This shark crisis is completely man made and sharks are being slaughtered for it.

Dr. O’Connel has 6 months to test his electromagnetic barrier to see if it has any effect. He also installed the sonar detection system that is being tested in the  Chatham Islands and Cape Cod. The fact that people are completely ignoring the swimming and surfing ban is just ignorant. They have been warned it is extremely dangerous and people have died but they choose to break the law to surf, then demand sharks be killed when what they were warned about ultimately happens.

Great White Kill Zone: Guadalupe

This is the new tech and camera episode. Shark scientist Melissa Marques and Dr. Yannis Papastmatiou went to Guadalupe Mexico to film never before seen behavior of the great white shark population there.

There are over 300 great white sharks and colonies of fur seals and elephant seals that call Guadalupe home. This environment is unlike any other great white hotspot in the world. While the water is unfathomably deep, it is also crystal clear, this presents a challenge to the great whites and requires them to adapt their hunting techniques because their usual ambush tactics are almost useless here. For this reason, they believe the predations are happening in the deep. They have a seal shaped rover camera that can dive to 500 feet and a VR camera with 8 lenses that all capture panoramic views.

Having human beings, cameras, cages, and other equipment in the water with sharks changes their behaviors. They are busy chasing the bait and the seal shaped cameras and checking out what the humans are doing. The cameras discovered that the sharks miss almost 90% of their targets at the surface but still hunt there. And that at depth they blend in very well with the bottom so ambush still works there. Sharks hunt wherever they want basically.

Monster Mako: Perfect Predator

Shark experts and cinematographers Joe Romeiro and Devon Massyn join professional shark tagger and conservationist Keith Poe off the coast of California to search for grander mako sharks. A grander mako is just like a regular mako only they get the title grander when they reach 10 feet in length and 1,000 pounds. These size sharks are rarely ever seen because of their status on the endangered list and slow reproduction rate.

Mako sharks are the fastest shark in the ocean, they are endothermic (warm blooded) meaning they can hunt anywhere in any temperature. Mako’s also have the largest brain to body size ratio of any species of shark, so they are smart. The decline of the mako shark is due largely to over fishing of their prey, global warming, and the shark fin trade. The team manages to find and film two grander mako sharks in one place for the first time in history.

Most of this show was flashbacks to past Monster Mako episodes. I was irritated with the “best of” shows that dominated last year’s Shark Week too. This is the first one like it this year so I am guessing that they had a hard time getting decent mako footage but had to make a show around the historic footage of two grander mako sharks together. Seeing two of such a rare shark in one place is a hopefull sign for the species

Once again, humans effect the world as a whole, beginning with the environment around them. What we do has consequences. Throwing tantrums and killing wildlife for doing what they were created to do, is not a solution. We have to change. If we continue to destroy the world, we won’t be able to live in it either.   
Side note about Monster Mako episode: Whenever I see anyone with dreadlocks I want to shave their head.

Tonight’s programming begins at 8PM with Isle of Jaws: Blood Brothers. Andrew Mayne Ghost Diver. I was Prey: Shark Week

Sylvia Papineau is an Arcade resident and self-proclaimed Shark Week 'finatic.' Watch All WNY News all week for her take on Shark Week 2019 specials. 

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