“Out there is a perfect engine, an eating machine, that is a miracle of evolution – it swims and eats and makes little baby sharks, that’s all,” Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) in the movie “Jaws,” 1975.

There has been a lot of talk lately about sharks, specifically shark attacks and sightings along the East Coast. On the Fourth of July, officials delayed opening one New York beach due to drones spotting over 50 sharks in the water near the shore. There have also been videos and photos of great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod and Nantucket, Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries biologist Greg Skomal argued the attacks could have been the result of shark bites, but could also have been caused by other marine animals, such as gray seals – local police reports indicate multiple swimmers were bitten by ‘a shark of unknown species’ or a ‘large marine animal,’” according to an article in Forbes on July 10.

The article stated that sharks off the shores of the East Coast is not uncommon during this time of year; however, sharks could be expanding their range as ocean temperatures heat up. Even though it appears shark attacks are up, the fact is the number of sharks in our oceans is going down.

There have been five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Scientists describe a mass extinction as when about 50% of all plants and animals alive at the same time die out. The one that most of us are aware of, thanks to “Jurassic Park,” was 65 million years ago when dinosaurs, specifically non-avian dinosaurs, were wiped out at the end of the Cretaceous period and the beginning of the Tertiary period. And throughout these five mass extinctions sharks continued to thrive. They have been in our oceans for about 420 million years; however, now many shark species are facing one of their biggest challenges – surviving humans.

There are about one thousand species of sharks and rays but, due to climate change and overfishing, 11 species of shark are extinct. A recent study looked at small, coral reef species of sharks and rays and found a steep decline in shark species. Five of the most common reef shark species have experienced a decline of up to 73%, according to

The study found that overfishing was driving resident shark species toward extinction. The analysis found global declines of 60% to 73% for five common resident reef shark species and that individual shark species were not detected at 34% to 47% of surveyed reefs.

There is concern the entire ocean ecosystem could fall out of balance because sharks not only maintain the species below them in the food chain but also indirectly maintain sea grass and coral reef habitats.

Sharks are caught in directed fisheries where the aim is to catch them for their meat, fins, liver oil, skin (for leather), cartilage (for medicine) and teeth and jaws (for curios). They are also caught by accident in nets, according to

“Finning – the practice of removing a shark’s fins and throwing the rest of the fish back into the ocean – contributes to the problem of overfishing and is now illegal in most countries,” according to

But sharks are just not targets of commercial fishing, they also are targets of sport fishing. According to, researchers found that catches of cartilaginous fish, like sharks and rays, have increased steadily over the past six decades and now comprise about 6% of the annual catch for recreational purposes.

Some of the sport fishing is done with legitimate companies that follow the laws of the land; however, there are other people who do not follow or care about the damage they are doing. This year a new law went into effect in California that is designed to stop white shark fishing.

The use of shark bait, shark lures or shark chum to attract a white shark is prohibited, according to the California Fish and Game Code.

We who live along the foothills and in a mountainous area understand nature showing up in our backyards and, likewise, those who are often in the ocean (like surfers and divers) understand they share the sea with nature as well. We need to learn to coexist and to walk that fine line between nature and society. After all, California saw the extinction of a great predator in the 1920s.

The last California grizzly bear was reportedly seen near Yosemite in 1924. Like the shark the grizzly was the victim of persecution and hunting bounties. California still has brown bears (for now) that help keep the wilderness in balance and at the moment brown bears do not appear to be threatened with extinction; however, as we have seen, it does not take long for that to change.

Which takes me to “Star Trek” that quite honestly if we all just study these episodes we could learn so much and maybe even prevent the planet disasters we are now facing … but I digress.

In “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” which I have referenced before, the Enterprise crew had to save the planet by finding whales in 20th century San Francisco and bring them into the future. This was needed after a probe from another galaxy arrived and was destroying the Earth because when a call was sent out to their apparent fellow space traveling whales, there received no response. It was a dramatic way to show how each species on this planet plays an important role to keep the delicate balance in place.

In my optimistic world there is an Enterprise crew in our future but I don’t think we can really depend on them to save us from ourselves; that is something we must do.

So when we go to the beaches remember we are not the only species on the planet and in the water.

And the beach is where most people would rather be as the heat wave continues in our area. We will see temps in the 90s though on Friday and on the weekend they’ll be near 97.

“We are uncertain [as to] the exact end of the heat,” said Rose Schoenfeld, NOAA meteorologist.

NOAA does think that Monday should be the end of the “real scorcher” and temperatures will begin to taper off. We will be dealing with temperatures about five to 10 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The beaches will see temperatures in the high 70s, and the water will be a little warmer than normal, in the mid-60s.