By Rose Hauser
Photo courtesy of Matt Larmand. A group of sharks spotted off Capistrano Beach in Dana Point
Great White Shark Interactions with Humans
In 2018, the International Shark Attack File investigated 130 incidents of alleged interactions between great white sharks and humans worldwide. Of these 130 incidents, 66 cases were confirmed to be unprovoked shark attacks on humans. 34 other remaining cases were confirmed to be provoked attacks on humans.
According to the Florida Museum, “unprovoked attacks” are incidents in which an attack on a human occurs within the shark’s natural habitat (typically coastal areas in the ocean around the world, or on the outskirts of shore waters) with no provocation of the shark by the human. A “provoked attack” is one in which the human initiates the interaction with the shark, (by way of harassment, attempting to feed the shark, unhooking a shark from a fishing net, etc.). Out of the rest of the world, the U.S. had the largest number of unprovoked shark attacks in 2018 with 32 confirmed cases.
As it turns out, there is a large correlation between the number of human-shark interactions and the number of humans spending time in the sea. Therefore, as human population continues to expand and interest in aquatic recreational activities increases, the amount of shark attacks is expected to continue to rise as well.
Effects of Shark Attacks on Coastal Communities
When shark attacks occur or sharks are sighted in local waters, both tourists as well as locals are scared away from going to the beach and participating in ocean leisure activities such as swimming, surfing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, etc. Many beaches have even posed closures on their waters due to shark sightings. In coastal towns of Southern California, Florida, Massachusetts as well as many other coastal states, beach tourism is a key component of and major driver of the economy. Therefore, if the amount of foot traffic is affected, coastal businesses and communities suffer as a result.
Photo by Jeff Antenore. Lifeguards at San Clemente’s Main Beach closed the water on a Sunday afternoon in May, 2017 after several great white sharks were sighted near shore.
In 2017 in San Clemente, California, where the motto of many beach dweller’s is “Surf. Eat. Sleep.”, local businesses such as the Nomads Hotel have felt the direct effects that shark attacks and sightings had on the number of customers they had. The week before Memorial Day which is usually a busy time for coastal businesses like Nomads Hotel, customers were cancelling their reservations.
This is just one of many examples of the direct ramifications this issue has had on local beach businesses and communities.
New Natural Predator to the Great White
The great white shark has long been considered to be the “top predator” of the ocean. Great whites are known to be able to detect a single drop of blood from three miles away and close in on their prey at 35 mph in short bursts.
Recently, a startling trend has been observed in which numerous mutilated carcasses of great white sharks have been washing up on the shores of beaches of South Africa.
Dyer Island Conservation Trust/ Marine Dynamics. Incident in which a mutilated carcass of a great white had washed ashore near Gansbaii, South Africa.
Among the top oceanic predators is also the Orca, or killer whale, which have been found to eat almost anything they can get a hold of.
After observing the size of the bite marks on the sharks which had washed up in South Africa, scientists have determined that the predator responsible for preying on the great whites is in fact, the killer whale. The orcas have been observed ramming into great white sharks, consequently, stunning them. This allows the orca to hook on to the dorsal fin of the shark with their jaw. The orca then violently shakes the shark and feeds on their liver, leaving the great white mutilated and left for dead.
Video: How Would Orca Attack and Kill a Great White? |Air Jaws: The Hunted| SHARK WEEK 2018
This video from Discovery UK documents the research that went into solving the mystery of the “mutilated and washed up sharks” that have been found on beaches after being brutally attacked and killed. A simulation shows exactly how the orcas actually hunt and kill the great whites. However, while undeniably deadly predators, orcas have not been found to be a threat to humans.
So, what if there were a way to solve the rising issue of great white shark attacks on humans, while simultaneously helping coastal beach communities maintain their revenue from tourism and local foot traffic?
Serial entrepreneur Peter J. Burns III has come up with a brilliant solution for shark problem that is affecting so many coastal communities around the U.S. This plan involves locating/renting orcas and strategically placing them in waters around affected beach communities, allowing the orcas to “take care of” the great whites in those areas.
Another Possible Solution
Researchers examined waters off Southeast Farallon Island and Año Nuevo Island in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of San Francisco, California and observed a pod of orcas enter the great white hunting ground. Despite the abundance of food available in that area, the sharks fled. The study concluded that great white sharks actually abandon their “preferred hunting ground” whenever orcas begin populating the same area. They stated that, “even the hint of killer whales in their seal-rich hunting grounds will scare sharks away for a year, even if the orcas have left the area.”.
Burns has also thought up another possible way to rid local beach communities of their “great white shark problem”.
After analyzing this new finding, Burns thought of the idea to synthesize the smell or sound of the orca and broadcast it in waters around beach areas with heavy shark populations. If successful, this would create a natural “shark repellent”, diverting sharks away from local beach areas for up to a year at a time.
Burns has begun actively reaching out to the Orca Conservatory to get them involved in this project.
Upon successful completion of this project, beach dwellers will be able to feel at ease about continuing to enjoy taking part in their favorite beach activities, and both local businesses and beach communities can continue to thrive and perform their day-to-day operations as normal.
This would truly be a win-win solution for everyone.
Peter’s blog as well as details about his many other ventures and new projects can be found on his website, http://peterjburnsiii.com/