Peter J. Burns III is both a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is on a humanitarian mission to make beaches safer for people who would like to enjoy these natural spaces without having to fear violent, and often deadly, shark attacks. In terms of sharks, the great white is typically considered the epitome of an apex predator.
The great white (scientific name: Carcharodon carcharias) can grow up to 20 feet in length, and weigh up to 6,600 pounds. These predators have serrated teeth which allow them to tear into the flesh of their prey. According to Oceana.org, these teeth can be as long as 6.6 inches. It’s no wonder that people do not want to get into the water with these animals.
The University of Florida’s 2018 International Shark Attack File (ISAF) provides further proof that these predators are to be avoided. The ISAF defines an “unprovoked attacks” by sharks as “incidents where an attack on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark” (ISAF, 2019). Unprovoked attacks do not include situations in which humans attempt to touch, harm, or otherwise interact with sharks. The table below gives further details about last year’s attacks on humans.
The ISAF also reports that of all the countries in the world, the United States had the highest number of unprovoked shark attacks in 2018. These are scary statistics, but is there a solution?
According to Peter J. Burns III, orcas may be the answer. A recent study published in Nature‘s Scientific Reports provides strong proof that orcas seriously deter great whites. During the course of the study, researchers tracked great whites with electronic tags and found that these animals leave areas when orcas are present. In fact, orcas give great white such a fright that the sharks will not return to a zone for months after orcas have visited the area. A recently published National Geographic article provides insight into the sharks’ behavior: orcas actually feed on great whites.
Instead of avoiding our oceans, Peter J. Burns III believes that humans should further research great white and orca interactions and support orca conservation. Burns believes the benefits are threefold:
- Orcas populations will thrive as a result of increased conservation activity, understanding, and interest.
- Human lives will be saved when orcas “do their part” as apex predators and naturally clear coastal areas of great whites.
- A decreased amount of shark attacks on humans will benefit great whites because they will be less likely to be feared as villains who prey on humans.
Burns also sees great potential for further research into the signals that orcas are giving off to great sharks. He believes that if these signals are mimicked, humans can experienced increased safety in the water. This pioneering idea will allow both humans and marine life to benefit via a green solution.
International Shark Attack File (ISAF). (2019). Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary. Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/yearly-worldwide-summary/.
Jorgensen, S., Anderson, S., Kanive , P., Moxley, J., Ferretti, F., Chapple, T., & Block, B. (n.d.). Killer whales redistribute white shark foraging pressure on seals. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-39356-2.
Note: Article affiliated with Monterey Bay Aquarium; Department of Biology, Stanford University; Point Blue Conservation Science; Fish and Wildlife Management, Montana State University
Oceana. (2019). Fun Facts About Great White Sharks. Retrieved November 8, 2019, from https://usa.oceana.org/fun-facts-about-great-white-sharks.
Rigney, E. (2019, July 16). Orcas Eat Great White Sharks. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/07/killer-whales-orcas-eat-great-white-sharks/