3 Reasons Why Sharks Matter
Just the word “shark” can evoke a negative response.
Media portrayals- stemming from Jaws- have had a huge influence on the public’s view of these animals. I don’t think anyone wants to see a shark swimming next to them at the beach (except maybe me and a few other crazy shark ladies) but in reality that the chance of being bitten by a shark is close to nonexistent. The truth is that sharks have much more to fear from us than we do from them.
1. Sharks play a vital role in the ocean
The ocean’s ecosystem is all connected, from the smallest plankton to the largest predator. As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem. If shark species disappear, the balance of the food chain is thrown off. Prey species would overpopulate and eat up all the food source at one level, causing the entire system to collapse and die out. Sharks help keep all that stable and in balance.
50-70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. Which means if the ocean die, we die. The presence of sharks means the ecosystem in healthy. If you hear of a spike in shark sightings at the beach like the one in southern California in 2017, that probably means that ecosystem in healthy!
2. Humans kill far more sharks than sharks do humans
2-3 sharks are killed by humans every second… that’s over close to 100 million sharks per year. While about 12 people die from as a result of an accident involving a shark per year.
There are around 440 species of shark all around the world. Within those, only about a dozen of those have had negative interactions with humans. People are bitten by sharks mostly through incidents of mistaken identity; sharks can mistake the shape of a human on a surfboard for their prey. Unlike us they do not have hands to explore their surroundings, but rather use their bite to figure out what something is. Unfortunately that exploratory bite from a large shark can be fatal. However, the chances of that happened are incredibly small. You are much more likely to get struck by lightning or get killed by a vending machine than get bitten by a shark. Furthermore, studies show sharks don’t even like our taste.
Most of all, we must remember when we enter the ocean (or any wild environment) that we are entering the realm of wild animals.
3. Sharks are facing the risk of extinction
Sharks are killed in masses due to human activity (shark fin trade, commercial fishing bycatch and sport fishing). Some shark populations have been depleted by a staggering 90% due to these threats- as in only 10% of their historic populations. Generating fear through movies and “shark attack” news articles does not help. Sharks need all the help they can get- we must not fear them but fear for them!
Speak up for sharks.
Check out the following organizations for petitions, calls to action and more information!
"...you're underwater and you see the thing that you were taught to fear... and its perfect... and it doesn't want to hurt you... and its the most beautiful thing you have ever seen... and your whole world changes." -Rob Stewart (Sharkwater)