May 26, 2016

The Shark Research Committee Great White DNA Project

 

Our friends over at the Shark Research Committee hit a major breakthrough in their work with the Great White shark. They’ve created a process for identifying potential “problem” sharks (we can think of one in our backyard who’s caused serious grief over the past decade) by using the DNA from shark tooth fragments. The science is, well rather scientific but our friend Ralph Collier, a man whose love of the ocean and its critters is as deep as the Pacific itself, puts it in layperson terms for us:

shark attack kayak santa barbara
Ryan Howell’s Hobie Outback sustained serious damage when a great white shark struck it in a breach attack, then returned for another bite. Teeth fragments were left. Photo courtesy Ryan Howell, Central Coast Kayak Fishing.

“We need your help to complete Phase 2 of our pioneering DNA project. We have taken the first step in obtaining a DNA profile from the outer enamel coating of a White Shark’s tooth, a procedure that has previously never been achieved or even attempted. When Phase 2 is completed, this new methodology will have far reaching ramifications for shark conservation. It will no longer be necessary to remove a shark from the water to obtain a blood sample nor remove a piece of tissue to obtain a DNA profile. We will eliminate these invasive procedures that are being utilized today. This methodology will also allow us to identify not only species but specific individual sharks from tooth fragments left behind when they strike an object or a human. But we need your help to complete this work.”

Ralph Collier
Shark Research Committee

You can donate directly to the SRC and even get a rad “Landlord” T-shirt for your tax deductible contribution at this link

Great White Shark and Diver

Founded in 1963 the Shark Research Committee’s primary goal was to assist Leonard P. Schultz of the Smithsonian Institution in documenting shark attacks from the Pacific Coast of North America. Soon this broadened to include original research on the general biology, behavior and ecology of sharks indigenous to waters off the Pacific Coast, with particular emphasis on the sharks that are potentially dangerous to ocean goers.

Based on the research conducted by the SRC, it was determined that the White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) was the species responsible for the majority of shark attacks recorded along the Pacific Coast of North America. Consequently the majority of the data gathered by the Shark Research Committee over the last five decades on shark/human interactions from the West Coast relates specifically to the White Shark. They have determined that the White Shark is deemed responsible for, or highly suspect in, 87% of all recorded unprovoked shark attacks on humans that occurred off the Pacific Coast during the Twentieth Century.

As surfers we know how important it is to create a knowledge base and understanding of the Great White because every time we paddle out we enter their home environment. Given that more and more people are taking to ocean sports, human/shark interactions are only going to increase as we charge into the future. An understanding of the Great White’s behavior is essential for the survival of both human and shark!

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