Saturday, August 6, 2011

Oceanic Whitetip

From its distinctive look to it's easily aggrivated manner it's easy to see why Carcharhinus longimanus, the Oceanic Whitetip, is quickly becoming one of my favorite sharks.
Jacques Cousteau ranked this shark as one of the most dangerous for its brazenness in evaluating prey. 
It's probably one of the most easily recognized sharks as it has very large, rounded dorsal and pectoral fins that are mottled with white on the edges. 
The Oceanic Whitetip is found throughout the world in deep, open water. It is almost never seen in shallow water and therefore not a threat to beachgoers. It is considered one of the four most dangerous sharks to humans on the open ocean and it has been known to bite for no reason.  They are known to be fearless and very aggressive. Divers can safely dive with Whitetips (except in the Red Sea it would seem) but as with all sharks you must use extreme caution. The Whitetip can grow up to 13 feet, so that's one big fish you don't want to mess with!
The Oceanic Whitetip is the most common ship-following shark, and in the 16th century were known to mariners as 'sea dogs.' The Whitetip is believed to be responsible for many of the fatal attacks on plane and shipwreck survivors at sea. Because of this the Oceanic Whitetip is responsible for more fatal attacks on humans than all other species combined. It is only because of the lack of survivors, that the whitetip does not have the highest number of recorded incidents.
The Oceanic Whitetips were responsible for the deaths of many many men when the steamship Nova Scotia was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off northern Natal, South Africa in WWII. Of the 900 men on board only 192 survived. The survivors said that most were victims of a "feeding frenzy."  They are also well known for being one of the species of sharks that scavenged on the survivors of the USS Indianapolis. (The other types reported were Mako and Tiger.)

Recent studies show a huge drop in the Whitetip populations because its large fins are highly valued as the chief ingredient of shark fin soup. Their numbers were estimated to have dropped by as much as 70% in the Northwest and Western Central Atlantic between 1992–2000. They have been listed as "Critically Endangered" but so far there has been no sign of improvement.

Hopefully more bans on shark fishing will help the species regroup.

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