Sharks making headlines!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012 by Rachelle Pinault

If you watch the news or read news articles, there is a good chance that over the summer you saw headlines about shark sightings in the Gulf of Maine. Maybe you saw the July 9th article from The Los Angeles Times reading, Shark! Cape Cod beach-goers scream as great white stalks kayaker, or the July 10th report on NESN, Kayaker Escapes ‘Crazy Big’ Great White Shark in Massachusetts. Or maybe you saw the photograph that inspired this and many other articles and news reports.

Click here to see the photo!

How did you react when you saw this photograph? Many reports claimed that the kayaker seen here, was being chased by a Great White Shark and that his life was in danger. However, after scientists examined the dorsal fin in the photograph, they determined that it most likely belonged to a Basking Shark. This species, averaging 20 to 25 feet in length, is relatively harmless to humans due to the fact that they are filter feeders, meaning they eat by straining food particles and tiny creatures that are suspended in the water.

It may seem like shark attacks occur more often than they actually do because they are so heavily publicized. According to the International Shark Attack File, there are roughly 35 shark attacks in the United States each year, 0-3 of which are fatal. Those might seem like high numbers, but you are actually more likely to be crushed by a vending machine or struck by lightning than attacked by a shark!

It is important to remember that sharks are incredibly important to the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. As top predators, they bring balance to the food web, and prey on weak and diseased fish and marine mammals, which improves the overall health of their populations.

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