to save Salmon Sharks
from extinction and educate the public on
protecting this vital species.
With your help we can change the tide and start gathering badly needed
updated data, local awareness and raise the alarm with the public
about a species thats population has collapsed.
About The Project
Sharks around the world are losing ground on co-existing on this
little blue planet with us. We lose up to 100 million sharks each
year and over 175,000 per day due mostly to commercial interests.
These are staggering numbers, unsustainable and they are in desperate
need of our help.
Although we would like to save all sharks, we've dedicated ourselves to
helping a very specific and little known shark species called the
Salmon Shark. This is due to the unique advantage we have with our
lodge and their final migratory destination, here in Alaska. My wife
and I have been blessed with the chance to live in a very remote part
of Prince William Sound and utilize our wilderness lodge (home) to
allow researchers, scientists and the general public unparalleled
access in understanding these little known sharks. But just as we've
started this endeavor, salmon shark numbers have crashed due to a
varied array of reasons and is now in recovery mode. We want to devote
more of our time during the summer to focus solely in saving these
amazing fish from extinction and create a conservation fund that allows
us to change public opinion at a local level to stop killing them for
sport and for commercial harvest/bycatch.
We've already taken the first steps in creating a sister website to
entice a very small niche community of divers (www.alaskasharks.com) willing
to spend money to travel to Alaska and help inspire shark awareness
around the globe. Although its not enough to allow us financially to
move our small lodge away from our biggest tourism income, which is
salmon and halibut fishing. But we also know we can't stand idly by
and watch these sharks slip silently into extinction. We've slowly
started to pay for the basic costs that would allow the lodge to help
fund research, local advocacy education and conservation campaigns to
protect these sharks from being hunted into oblivion. We want to
become Alaska's ambassadors in practicing sustainable shark tourism and
lead the way in embracing her underwater world, which is honestly a
mystery to most Alaskans.
We've slowly started to retrofit our
lodge/vessel in order to better serve researchers and scientists with
greater access, even if there is little to no monetary gain for us.
We've also purchased $25,000 in camera gear to showcase these sharks
as intelligent and beautiful creatures, not mindless killing machines.
Its been an uphill battle for our business but someone has to be the
first to take a stand.
Thats where you come in! With support from like minded individuals, we
can educate at a local level and beyond, provide badly needed updated
research data and stand up for these sharks during this crucial moment
What are Salmon Sharks?
Unique Coldwater Sharks: Salmon Sharks are one cool shark in my
opinion! They look like a mini Great Whites and move like a Mako. But
what really sets them apart in the shark kingdom is its ability to
sustain itself in cold alaskan waters and are masters of heat
regulation during bursts of speed in icy waters for prey. This also
increases their vertical range in the water column. Salmon Sharks are
part of the endothermic Lamnidae family. Meaning they are able to
thermoregulate or maintain a body temperature above the temperature of
the surrounding water. Most other marine life is ectothermic, which
means they maintain an internal temperature that matches the
surrounding water. Lamnids have vascular counter-current
heat exchangers or retes, that enable them to retain the heat produced
by their metabolism. These retes are located near the muscles used for
locomotion and in their viscera or body cavity organs. They are also
able to regulate their temperature using vascular shunts that enable
them to alter and re-route blood flow. Giving them the advantage to
raise their internal body temperature anywhere from 10-15 degree's
above the surrounding water! They are a pelagic species of shark that
are can be found roaming the open ocean and migrate inland during
summer salmon fish runs. Found largely in the North Pacific, between
Japan and the west coast of North America. Female sharks live up to 20
years and mature at 6-9 years of age, while males can live up to 27
years and mature as soon as 3-5 years of age. They are extremely
smart, cunning but also shy animals. I like to use the dinosaur
analogy to describe them to folks with Great Whites as the T-Rex of our
modern oceans and Salmon Sharks as the Raptors that roamed alongside
Shark History and What Happened
History: On a geologic time scale, sharks have been
around since before the dawn of the dinosaur age. And as far back as
we know during this geologic era, Salmon Sharks have migrated from
southern pacific oceans to Alaska each summer to feast on Salmon since
before humans sailed across the oceans. However, in the span of 40
years shark populations have dropped by 90% globally. And more
recently in Alaska, we've witnessed commercial and sport fisherman
nearly wipe out the species from 2007-2010. Research data on Salmon
Sharks is outdated and does not accurately represent the actual
population. How do we know this?
Per IUCN, Salmon Sharks are labeled as least concerned, stating “The
Salmon Shark occurs in the eastern and western North Pacific and its
population appears to be stable and at relatively high levels of
abundance. Currently there is no directed fishery in the Northeast
Pacific, apart from a small sport fishery for the species in Alaska.
Bycatch in the Northeast and Eastern Central Pacific appears to be at
low levels and is not increasing at this point-in-time” A research
paper by L.B. Hulbert, stated that he found an abundant population of
salmon sharks from 1998-2001 (Hulbert et al 2005). But nearly all
research conducted on salmon sharks was taken between 1998 and 2006,
during the peak of a healthy shark population. Scientists and
biologists will use this old research as a baseline when talking about
this shark species. But current population rates are heavily skewed
with old data and must be updated with not only with new scientific
research and recreational fishing data, but also commercial fishing
data regarding the number of sharks that they discard. Coupled with the
recreational/commercial fishing interest that still exists and the high
dollar value connected to it, these sharks may not recover if not given
the chance. But it is a fragile recovery that could be jeopardized
easily if one or two charter boats over a few days decided to take the
old practice of fishing for these sharks. On one hand the low number of
sharks will most likely prevent any large scale recreational fishing.
However, should the population rebound to the numbers pre-2007, a risk
exists that history will repeat itself.
What happened: My family struck out to build a remote
lodge in the wilds of Alaska in 2004. Little did we know that we built
next to the biggest annual Salmon Shark migration destination which
gave us uncanny access into their behavior, population and habits. But
also unfortunately gave us front row seats to the shark culling that
Along the course of building the lodge business, I met my wife who is a
biologist. She was the catalyst to create time to invite researchers,
scientists, photographers and production companies to give them a home
base in the extreme remote area of Prince William Sound to study these
sharks. We've advanced that cause at every opportunity and want to
share our knowledge on the population collapse that happened between
2007-2010 from over fishing.
Sharks are an easy target and these were no different for the flock of
tourists that visit Alaska looking to string one up just for a picture.
Fishing charter boats from several nearby towns switched to only shark
fishing when the demand had hit a feverish pitch starting in 2007.
What caused the influx of shark fisherman in Alaska? A single image
of a fisherman with a shark draped across his kayak on the front cover
of a well known magazine. Commercial fishing long liners also kill
them accidentally as by-catch and commercial seining boats kill them
when they tangle in salmon nets, with little oversight from extremely
stretched Fish and Game resources. Where we use to see hundreds has
now dwindled down to a few dozen. Because this apex predator is nearly
gone, there has been an explosion of rays (mesopredators) which causes
havoc to the Eco system starting from the top down.
Where Do We Go From Here
Our Mission: I believe it must start at the local level. We
want to get local communities excited about
seeing, learning and understanding what a vital need they are. In
Alaska it seems like 90% feedback is to kill sharks. When asked why, there is no
real answer why other then what they perceive on tv and movies. By engaging kids and adults directly over the stigma
of fear on images in movies as "monsters", we can start the
conversation with real informed information first hand, giving them a
broader opinion then the normal response of "sharks are bad".
We can raise awareness with outreach programs that brings them out to
the sharks and allows them to see sharks from the safety of a boat
dedicated to teaching them what it means to have sharks in the
eco-system. Show them they are not "scary" and these particular sharks
have a teeth structure designed for catching small prey and need to be
smart about ambushing their food source.
Location and Lodge: How do we achieve this? We are in a unique
position with an already established business that has already started
conducting research and raising awareness. Having the lodge located
directly at the end of the migration route allows us to have access to
shark behavior for months each year and allows others to easily access
this remote area. My wife and I would love to see part of the lodge become a
research center in the future for young aspiring wildlife biologists
and believe in time, it can.