Monday, 14 August 2017 10:55

Ocean Superhero - Ep.3

In the previous two episodes, we discussed ways in which we can reduce our plastic footprint and in so doing, become Ocean Superheroes and save some Marine lives.

Today, in the final episode of this trilogy, we take a closer look into our cupboards and see how a change in our personal products can turn us into Ocean Superheroes.

1. Glass is class:

Whenever possible, choose personal care products which are sold in glass containers, instead of plastic. Glass is better for the ocean and has no toxic seepage sneaking into your product, which inevitably builds up in your body.

2. Beware of your butt.

Cigarette filters are not biodegradable, so please do not just flick them out your car window! They are made of plastic fibres and are filled with chemicals and carcinogens. This deadly combination seeps its toxic concoction into the environment, causing a wake of death. Smokers, please be responsible with your butts and ensure that you place them in a bin, where they can be disposed of properly and not end up in the ocean.

3. Ban the Bead!

Plastic microbeads are everywhere! Grocery aisles are beset on all sides by these micro-tyrants. What are they? Tiny, little balls of plastic.

They are usually colourful to catch the consumer’s eye and you will find them in your toothpaste, your facial or body scrub, in your wrinkle fillers, in your laundry powder, your cleaning detergent or in your shower gel. These microbeads are ineffective as exfoliators (whether on your skin or on dirt) as they are so smooth and round that they offer zero exfoliation. Instead, they wash down your drain, pass through the water filtering plants and rinse out into our waterways, ending up as lunch for some unsuspecting fish, crab or oyster. In just 1 shower, you can release 100 000 of these microbeads. So, ban anything which states “Now with micro-particles” or has any of the “poly’s” in its ingredient list. They may look pretty, but they are useless and deadly!

4. Go natural!

If and when possible, choose natural products over synthetic/chemical based products. From personal care products to cleaning products – eventually, they all end up in our drains and further downstream in our waterways. Vinegar and Bicarbonate of Soda can replace several bottles of chemical cleaners in your kitchen cupboard – cleaning more effectively, costing less than ordinary scrubbers and being far kinder to the environment. You will also be surprised to learn how many little tubes and bottles in your bathroom cabinet can be replaced with lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda or coconut oil! Don’t believe me? Go on, Google it!

The most important message I wanted this trilogy to get across to you, is this:

If it is better for the environment, it is better for you too. How much is your health worth to you? How much is the health of your environment worth to you? Make the switch, it won’t cost you more, it simply takes a shift in thinking and changing gears in the daily choices you make. Fight the scourge which is ocean pollution and become the ultimate (and healthy) Ocean Superhero!

Published in Latest News
Monday, 07 August 2017 10:41

Ocean Superhero - Ep.2

In our previous episode, you were introduced to 5 simple steps/choices to reduce your single-use plastics, as well as the repercussions of said plastics. In this episode, I will be showing you how your food choices can help save some lives – no, don’t worry, I am not jumping on the vegan band-wagon! Read below for more tips on how to become an Ocean Superhero!

1. Breaking Bread:

If you are like me, then there’s nothing more comforting and satisfying than fresh bread. And herein lies the superhero secret – purchase freshly baked breads from a baker, wrapped in paper, instead of those fake, mass-produced, plastic-wrapped breads we buy in the name of convenience. Not only are fresh breads nutritionally better, purchasing them also supports the “little guy” instead of huge corporations. And of course, there’s no plastic thrown out with the crumbs.

2. Put the freeze on frozen foods:

Firstly, frozen foods have lost almost all of their nutritional values by the time you have defrosted and reheated them. Secondly, they are all packaged in plastic. (aargh! The horror that some foods are actually microwaved in their plastic, which releases the plastic toxins into your food!)

Save your health and those of marine animals and opt for fresh vegetables instead of frozen ones. Take time and pre-cook your meals for the week ahead, freeze them in reusable containers and simply reheat and eat when you’re hungry.

3. Farm Fresh:

Speaking of fresh produce, a fun and effective way to rid yourself of all the excess plastic packaging our foods are wrapped in, is to shop at your local Farmer’s Market. Take your basket and fill it with plastic-free, fresh and (usually) organically grown foods. Your body and the oceans will thank you.

4. Gum is not gum!

Sure, we all like to have fresh breath, but did you know that your chewing gum is not made from natural gum? Nope, you are chewing on a piece of mint flavoured PLASTIC!

Gone are the days when actual gum from trees were flavoured for your chewing pleasure. Now, “gum base” is the umbrella name for anything from resin to elastomers, (the molecular composition of which is very similar to plastic). Your gum may also contain polyvinyl acetate, which is infamous for causing tumours. So basically, we are chewing sugar-coated, tumour-forming plastic… yummy. But remember, all these billions of pieces of chewed plastic, eventually gets spat out and it has to go somewhere…

5. I scream for Ice-Cream!

Go ahead, treat yourself, have an ice-cream! But out of respect for our oceans and the environment, please make it an ice-cream cone, and not one of those over packaged, brightly wrapped ice-creams from the supermarket. And try to avoid the big plastic tubs of ice-cream too – both your waistline and the oceans will be happy!

Ultimately, these 5 choices will improve your health and save the lives of marine animals like whales, turtles, dolphins and an ark-full of other species – in fact, over 100 000 marine animals and 1 million sea birds die each year due to plastic. Watch this video for more inspiration to become an Ocean Superhero! https://youtu.be/R6IP3_aRFtA

Published in Latest News
Tuesday, 01 August 2017 10:15

Ocean Superhero - Ep.1

Our oceans and marine life are being choked by a continuous supply of plastic; from plastic bags and bottles, to straws and microbeads. 80% of marine plastics come from land-based sources, which are then blown or washed into the ocean. Plastic travels well and ends up on shorelines, in the stomachs of ocean life, and as giant floating islands, thousands of miles from civilization.

Annually, more than 8.8 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans. That’s the same as five grocery bags filled with plastic, for every foot of coastline in the world!!! That is seriously disturbing and it all seems so overwhelming that you might be thinking to yourself: “Well what can I do about it and would it actually help at all!?”

In 2008, the average amount of waste generated by each person in America per day, was 4.5 pounds (2.04kg).Imagine we all reduced our waste by 50% and we multiplied that by 7.5 billion (people) - surely that would have a beneficial impact?

Read these 5 simple ways to start reducing your single-use plastics and you will see how easy it is to become Ocean Superheroes (no super powers or genetic mutations needed)!

1. Drink Responsibly

Americans use an estimated 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, of which only 23 percent are recycled. So, ditch the dodo, buy water in glass bottles or invest in a reusable container and save some lives in the process.

2. Get your fix, the eco-way!

Your daily caffeine fix is more than likely aiding and abetting the plastic scourge. Every cup of Java comes hand in hand with a plastic lid, a plastic stirrer or in fact, the very cup might be plastic! The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year.

If you break your plastic addiction by buying a travel-mug, not only will you prevent hundreds of pieces of plastic from entering the environment, but you will also protect your own health!!! When in contact with heat, plastic/Styrofoam releases a whole chemical cocktail, which seeps into your daily fix and absorbs into your body.

3. Refuse plastic straws:

500 Million straws are used in the USA, EVERY DAY!!! That’s staggering! Straws are an unnecessary evil - refuse a straw the next time you buy a soda or milkshake, or get some funky glass straws (they are quite durable!). Need motivation to make this change? Watch this: https://youtu.be/d2J2qdOrW44

4. Ban the Bag:

Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, and worldwide we use a total of 500 billion plastic bags. By making a simple choice you can save lives – lots of lives: One survey of leatherback turtles found that 1 in 3 has at least one plastic bag in its stomach, where it causes pain and leads to starvation. Please switch to reusable shopping bags, the following video might assist the process: https://youtu.be/oxLWt8NDneI

5. Fork the Knives:

Instead of accepting plastic cutlery with your take-out, rather invest in some eating utensils which won’t end up in the bin once the meal’s over. Sticking with metal or bamboo eating utensils which you can reuse, would help the ocean and its creatures breathe better. This video clip might help bring this message home to you: https://youtu.be/VRiTABRQOjk.  Daily, we are accosted by myriads of plastic in different ways, and there are a multitude of simple (and cost-effective) ways in which we can minimize our plastic footprint.

So, start making choices today that will turn you into an ocean superhero, saving lives with the choices you make – It’s like another superhero once said: “It’s in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it…” Nelson Mandela.

Published in Latest News
Thursday, 02 June 2016 11:22

White Shark Sightings

Winter in the Southern Hemisphere is known as the best season to view Great White Sharks. Here in Gansbaai, we have sharks all-year-round, but Winter is still traditionally considered as the best season. There are a few contributing factors, such as the fact that there are more sharks hanging around Shark Alley during Winter, the water visibility improves and the water temperature is a few degrees warmer than in Summer. Thanks to the Great White Shark’s rete mirabile, they are able to raise their body temperature about 10’C warmer than that of the surrounding water, which in layman’s terms relates to the sharks being a little lazy when the water is cold and when the water is warmer, they feel a little friskier. The big males make their appearance in winter, just in time for the Cape Fur Seal pups to take their first plunge into the Atlantic and test their aquatic skills. Generally, we see more females than males during Summer and more adult males during Winter.

If you look at our data from 2015 however, you will notice a pattern that does not support what I’ve just told you. Now, I understand that when it comes to the collection of Biological data, it is not as clean and neat as pure statisticians would like it to be; the variables are all over the place! I am all for statistics, it is fascinating, it gives us insight and better understanding, but sometimes it also gives us more questions than answers. And 2015’s data is very intriguing indeed...

Month

Male

Female

Unknown

NBR shark

January

43 52 33 128

February

125 124 80 329

March

79 142 64 285

April

48 142 39 229

May

22 91 27 140

June

47 98 29 174

July

71 78 26 175

August

58 81 48 187

September

22 37 25 84

October

49 100 41 190

November

23 63 33 119

December

42 62 50 154

The Western Cape of South Africa did not get its nickname “The Cape of Storms” for no reason; Winter in the Western Cape is infamous for its gale force winds and feisty cold fronts, which whips the Atlantic Ocean up into a frenzy and of course, has a direct impact on the amount of days we can go out to sea. Therefore, one could deduce a direct correlation between the amount of trips done per month and the number of sharks spotted. Which is probably why we saw nearly 330 Great Whites in February and only a 140 in May. We did not have good weather in January, so we had quite a few “no sea days”, but January is not known as a good shark-month, so one could expect a low number of sightings. September is still considered good shark-viewing season, but the weather did not permit many trips out to sea, which then gives us the self-explanatory low figure of 84 Great White Shark sightings.

 

But this is where it gets intriguing: why did we see so many males in February, if traditionally we see more females than males in Summer? And why do we generally see more adult females than adult males? The males we do see tend to be juveniles, which brings me to another question: why do we see so many juvenile sharks in our area? Could one be blamed, if one came to the conclusion that there may well be a Great White Shark nursery in our waters? I mean think about it: Lots of adult females, not so many adult males, and loads of little juveniles of about 1.2m in length, which is practically newborn size. Hmmm, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

Now if you consider the strange phenomena we experienced during January and February of 2016, where we had no shark sightings for 5 weeks; could these hiccups in our 2015 pattern have been the warning signs of the impending crisis, much like cumulus clouds are the forerunners of a storm? Were these hiccups caused by the El Nino and can we indeed blame the El Nino for making our sharks disappear for those weeks? Guess we will have to wait until all the data has been accumulated and assessed – will keep you posted!

 

Published in Latest News
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 08:50

Great White Shark Pups

Very little is known about the location of mating and pupping of Great White Sharks. A Great White Shark birth (and mating) has yet to be photographed/filmed/or otherwise documented anywhere in the world!  They are ovoviviparous, give birth to 2-14 live pups, and may only produce 4-6 litters in a lifetime. The size of newborn pups can be up to 1.5m, and they are highly mobile from birth, further complicating our understanding of where they are born.

Due to the warmer waters brought on by this year’s El Niño, baby shark season has officially begun off the Southern California Coast. White sharks throughout the world move inshore during certain seasons. It is very rare to see adult Great Whites along the Californian coastline. However, the presence of large adult females and then the immediate presence of young pups (<1.5m) strongly suggests that these waters are also a white shark pupping ground from spring – early summer

In Southern California, white shark pups favour many of the same coastal fish species that humans do, like halibut.  So it should come as no surprise that white shark pups are often caught accidentally by coastal fishermen as bycatch.     

Dr Chris Lowe and his students took advantage of this great opportunity to work with local fishermen in the area in order to study baby white sharks.  From their catch/tag/release study, the Lowe Lab found that these white shark pups follow fairly predictable behaviours inshore, staying shallower than the “isotherm” at 60m depth.  Isotherms are boundaries in the water column between warm surface waters and cold deep waters. White shark pups don’t stray deeper than the 60m mark, whether they are in relatively shallow waters or in the deeper waters of the continental slope.  This shows that their choice in habitat relates to water temperature. 

Dr. Lowe and his team release a juvenile white shark back to its inshore waters.

Fewer large predators and an abundance of food, like stingrays and flatfish, draw sharks to the shallower waters

The great white shark is most commonly associated with the coasts of Australia, California and South Africa, but there have been occasions when this increasingly rare animal has been spotted in the Mediterranean. Some experts believe that the Mediterranean is a nursery where great white sharks give birth. The Sicilian channel, near the Italian island of Lampedusa, is the only location in the Atlantic region where both pregnant females and newly born great whites have been sighted. The warm waters of this particular area of the Mediterranean are high in nutrients and attract large pelagic fish, dolphins and turtles which form the staple diet of great whites. This area is a shallow shelf area which keeps the young in warm water throughout the year and reduces competition from blue and mako sharks.

Interesting facts obtained from Dr Lowe and his team:

While it’s rare for white sharks to become stranded on the shore, baby salmon sharks, a close cousin to the white shark, will often strand themselves because of a bacteria that infects their brain and causes them to die, according to Dr Lowe.

85% of all the great white sharks that are by-caught in their study area were <1.75m in length 

These sharks were often found alive when the soak time of the fishing nets was less than 20hr

When released, 92.9% of the pups survived - those are some tough babies!

Published in Latest News
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