June 25, 2016
June 25, 2016

More Great White Sharks Showing Up in Gulf Waters

Scott Fitzgerald of Madfish Charters was fishing for amberjack last spring about 8.5 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico when he felt a big bump in his boat according to a report from USA Today.

A large great white shark attacked his trolling motor.

The presence of great white sharks in the Gulf of Mexico has been verified, with a good chance of them appearing in Texas waters.

“He knocked the boat two feet to the side, then grabbed the trolling motor and started shaking it in his mouth,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s when I ran up front and pulled it out of his mouth.”

In 2014, “Katharine” and “Betsy” two great whites fitted with satellite transmitters by OCEARCH caused a full flown media circus when they showed up in the Gulf Coast near Florida.

“Jaws” is not typically affiliated with Gulf waters but we have been writing about the fact great whites dwell the Gulf in limited numbers since a local charter captain encountered one 55 miles out of Sabine Pass.

A paper entitled Seasonal Distribution and Historic Trends in Abundance of White Sharks in the Western North Atlantic published by PLOS ONE sheds some fascinating light on white shark populations.

The study which examined great white sightings from a wide variety of sources from 1800 to 2010 showed the range of white shark occurrence extended from the north coast of Newfoundland to as far south as the British Virgin Islands, as far east as the Grand Banks and Bermuda, to as far west as the coast of Texas.

According to NOAA, their earliest recorded white shark was off the coast of Sarasota, FL on a setline in the winter of 1937. Another specimen was caught in the same area in 1943.

In addition, National Marine Fisheries Service officials reported 35 great whites as by catch in the Japanese longline fishery in the Gulf from 1979 through 1982.

The presence of great whites in the Gulf has been verified but the information was rarely discussed until the appearance of “Katharine” and “Betsy”.

Interestingly, there is a very good chance more great white sightings will take place in the Gulf and possibly Texas waters.

The removal of gill nets along the shallow areas of the Gulf Coast beginning in 1994 has given young great white an advantage. They use these areas as “nursery” and for decades were almost all killed in the nets. Great whites are sexually mature at around 15 years of age so we are on our second generation of whites born without the nets.

Research shows most in the Atlantic region are born along the eastern seaboard and then disperse into other areas including the Gulf to feed.

The research conducted by OCEARCH is fascinating and by logging onto their website you can track the sharks with the tracking devices and keep up with your favorite sharks. There are numerous great whites as well as other species fitted with these devices.

Technology has opened up an entirely new view of these rare sharks and given us access to information formerly not dreamed of much less available.

—Chester Moore


Survey Searches for Rock Art at Hueco Tanks

A new two-year survey for Native American rock art is now underway at Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site. The park is a significant cultural site and home to a variety of rock imagery, some of which may be several thousands of years old. It is also known as a destination for rock climbing and bouldering.

“The world class cultural resources of Hueco Tanks compels us to seek out and use the best available technology to protect this site,” said Brent Leisure, Texas State Parks Director. 

“There is one thing that all people can agree upon; the expressions of people on the rocks at Hueco Tanks and the deep and meaningful connection we all have for this site demands our full commitment as guardians and stewards. I am excited that we can apply this new technology to achieve this standard.”

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has devoted considerable efforts to document the cultural resources at Hueco Tanks. Past projects include a comprehensive ground survey for archeological deposits around the base of the mountains by the TPWD Archeology Survey Team in 1999 and 2001, and a large rock art inventory project by outside contractor, Rupestrian CyberServices, in 1999 and 2000.

The results of the rock art inventory, which incorporated the findings of several previous investigations at Hueco Tanks, helped determine where climbing activities could occur at the park without impacting identified rock imagery.

However, technologies are constantly emerging and a new image enhancement program called DStretch will be used during the Hueco Tanks survey project

Although NASA had used a similar program for analyzing aerial photographs, the program was not modified for use in rock art investigations until 2005 and has undergone further refinements since that time. This technology, which has now been used on a number of rock art sites around the world, greatly improves on previous techniques for detecting faint pictographs that may be nearly impossible to detect with the unaided eye. Recent use of DStretch at Hueco Tanks has already led to the discovery of previously unknown rock imagery at the site.

The need to identify potential faded imagery on or near climbing routes at Hueco Tanks and the availability of an effective tool to address this need, helped spark the present project. The project began at the end of March and is scheduled for completion in late 2017. Findings will be used to help monitor any newly discovered rock imagery and help manage activities that have the potential to impact these resources.

Versar, Inc., a nationally known cultural resource management and engineering firm, has been enlisted to complete the survey. Versar has also recruited the help of local climbers to locate and access the nearly 2,000 climbing routes at the park.

“Hueco Tanks is steeped in over 60 years of climbing history,” said Ian Cappelle, chairman of the Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition (CHTC). 

“Climbers travel from every corner of the world to experience and connect to the recreational, cultural and natural resources that Hueco Tanks provides.”

CHTC’s mission is to preserve rock climbing and its history at Hueco Tanks by working cooperatively with TPWD to proactively assist in the management of climbing areas while conserving cultural and natural resources of Hueco Tanks.

“The new survey and use of the Dstretch technology will provide TPWD a definitive accounting of any previously unidentified rock art in conjunction with climbing routes in the park,” Cappelle said.

“As a result, climbers can be educated as to where they are able to climb without harming the cultural resources of Hueco Tanks all the while preserving the history of everyone that passes through this park.”

The park has been an important asset to the El Paso area as a place to recreate and a significant cultural resource that reflects at least 10,000 years of area and regional history.

—from Staff Reports


East Texas’ Native Bear Increasing

The Louisiana black bear, the inspiration for the teddy bear, has been removed from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The species restoration is a significant conservation success and further demonstrates the value of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  

The fabled bear became part of American culture after a hunting trip to Mississippi in 1902, where President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that was trapped and tied to a tree by members of his hunting party. The episode was featured in a cartoon in The Washington Post, sparking the idea for a Brooklyn candy-store owner to create the “Teddy” bear.

“President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today,” Secretary Jewell said. “Working together across private and public lands with so many partners embodies the conservation ethic he stood for when he established the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the solution to address troubling trends for the nation’s wildlife. As I said last spring when the delisting proposal was announced, the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the Endangered Species Act.”

The delisting follows a comprehensive scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the bear’s status. The Service also released a final post-delisting monitoring plan that will help ensure the bear’s future remains secure.

The majority of Louisiana black bear habitat falls on private lands, where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior worked with Louisiana farmers to voluntarily restore more than 485,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests in priority areas for conservation. One key tool was the use of conservation easements in these targeted areas, through which USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) worked with farmers to restore habitat on difficult-to-farm lands. This strategic approach became one of the building blocks for Working Lands for Wildlife, a partnership between the Service and NRCS to conserve wildlife habitats on agricultural lands nationwide.

“Farmers played a pivotal role in helping the Louisiana black bear recover, using easements and other Farm Bill conservation programs to sew together primary habitat corridors,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. 

“By working together, we’re able to achieve more conservation, direct resources where biological returns are highest and achieve a larger habitat footprint spanning public and private lands.”

“The recovery of the Louisiana black bear is an outstanding conservation accomplishment,” Director Ashe said. 

“Led by Louisiana and former Secretary Robert Barham, along with Texas and Mississippi, our state partners and private landowners have been crucial to this achievement. The ESA’s success in preventing extinction and recovering species is in large part due to the countless partnerships like these that it helps to foster.”

When the Louisiana black bear was listed under the ESA in 1992 due to habitat loss, reduced quality of habitat and human-related mortality, the three known breeding subpopulations were confined to the bottomland hardwood forests of Louisiana in the Tensas and Upper and Lower Atchafalaya River basins. 

Today, those subpopulations have all increased in number and have stabilized to increasing growth rates. Additional breeding subpopulations are forming in Louisiana and Mississippi, providing a healthy long-term outlook for the species.

The partners conducted research regarding the status of the existing populations, established additional subpopulations and protected or restored more than 750,000 acres of habitat. A large proportion of habitat that supports and connects breeding subpopulations has been protected and restored voluntarily through private landowner restoration efforts.

The Service proposed to delist the Louisiana black bear in May 2015 after determining the recovery criteria, as defined in the 1995 Louisiana Black Bear Recovery Plan, had been met and that threats to the bear were reduced or eliminated. 

In 1992, at the time of the listing, there were as few as 150 bears in Louisiana habitat. Today, the Service estimates that 500-750 bears live across the species’ current range where successful recovery efforts are allowing breeding populations to expand. As such, the bear is not likely to become in danger of extinction now or within the foreseeable future.

“Growing up in the Sportsman’s Paradise, I’m proud to join in the announcement of the recovery of the Louisiana black bear,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. 

“The resurrection of this iconic symbol of our nation and Louisiana shows the value of science and collaborative research. It also represents a commitment to conservation with so many willing partners from private landowners to state and federal agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations coming together to make sure the Louisiana black bear will be around for many generations to come.”

“As a former veterinarian and an avid outdoorsman from Northeast Louisiana, I am so proud that the black bear has been removed from the endangered species list,” Rep. Abraham said. “This is a terrific comeback story that reflects the dedicated work of so many people from throughout Louisiana, and I’m excited that our beloved Teddy Bear will be here for the next generation of Louisianans to enjoy.”

—from Staff Reports

—from TPWD

Return to CONTENTS Page


Comments are closed.