It’s nearly shark week people! (Shark week starts August 12)
If you have an unnerving fear of sharks that comes mostly from watching Jaws movies in the ‘80s, you might be tempted to wonder why everyone is making such a fuss about sharks. So what if they’re all gone? Sharks have a lot going for them actually. Firstly, sharks are cool. Sure they’re scary and if you ever meet one in the water your chances of survival are slim, but they are one of the world’s most successful predators. So adept are they at survival that the anatomy of sharks has changed little over millions of years.
Why sharks need you
The indiscriminate slaughter of sharks, mostly to meet the ever growing soup fin soup demands, has wreaked havoc on the world’s shark population with almost a third of the shark species now facing extinction. Over a 100 million sharks are killed each year for consumption or sport.
“Sharks are definitely at the top of the list for marine fishes that could go extinct in our lifetimes,” said Julia Baum of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “If we carry on the way that we are, we’re looking at a really high risk of extinction for some of these shark species within the next few decades.” Over-fishing has caused a 90% decline in shark populations, a figure that rises up to 99% along the US east coast, according to Baum.
Mostly, sharks have just got a bad rap. From 1580 to 2007, only 67 people died from great white shark attacks. Surfers have a greater chance of drowning than they do of dying from a shark attack.
Why we need them
Sharks are the ocean’s apex predators and they play a vital role in keeping the other species in check. If we get rid of all the sharks, the entire oceanic ecosystem will suffer.
The oceanic ecosystem is the most important one we have; it provides us with a 1/3 of our food supply and converts more greenhouse gas to oxygen than all the rainforests combined.
Sharks are so vital to our survival that even the victims of shark attacks have joined in the fight to save sharks from extinction. Working in association with Pew Environment Group and a team of scientists from Stony Brook University, a group of shark-attack survivors recently help to gather data in a study where shark fin samples from soups were collected in fourteen cities across the US for DNA analysis. According to the survey, the samples contained 33 different species of shark, including several that are classified as near-threatened, vulnerable or endangered.
Debbie Salamone is one of the victims who are standing up for shark rights: “We were all in the ocean to begin with because we love it. If we can stick up for sharks, that turns a lot of heads. We all wanted to turn something really bad into something with a positive impact, then our suffering wasn’t for nothing.”
How can we help?
We know it’s usually us humans pleading with the sharks not to eat us, but now they need us to stop eating them. If you go somewhere and see shark fin soup for sale, lobby the shop or restaurant owners to stop. You can also donate funds to your local shark protection agencies.