Why care about sharks? The hammerhead and many other shark species are on the verge of extinction, with populations decreasing 98% in recent years. In 2004, North Carolina’s 100 year old bay scallop fishing industry was forced shut down due to a direct link with declining shark populations. Over 70 million sharks are killed each year, the majority for their prized shark fins. The media-driven shark frenzy makes us believe sharks are harmful, yet statistically this fear is completely unfounded. Killing sharks threatens our oceans worldwide with our marine ecosystem already collapsing as a direct effect. We must work together to save these magnificent creatures in order to save ourselves and all of our beautiful sea life for future generations.
Sharks have been a part of the eco chain for 400 million years, existing longer than dinosaurs. In contrast, humans have only been on earth 100,000 years. As apex predators, sharks are essential to the marine ecosystem, patrolling our oceans to limit overpopulation of other species, eating sick or old fish and maintaining “survival of the fittest” among its prey. As the shark population declines, the oceans will not be able to adjust and eventually all sea life will become endangered, including shellfish and coral.
A 2007 study on the dwindling shark population along the eastern US coast showed a dramatic increase in the number of rays and skates, which feed on bi-valves (scallops, clams, oysters). As the ray population increases due to the decrease in predatory sharks, rays consume an overabundance of shellfish, putting the shellfish population in danger and eliminating our ability to harvest and consume scallops, clams and oysters. Upholding this study is the fact that North Carolina’s 100 year old bay scallop fishing industry between the Outer Banks and the mainland had completely shut down by 2004. Decreased sharks in this area led to a flourishing of cownose rays which consumed the bay scallops, leaving too few to sustain fishing and limiting successful reproduction for the following years. Fish provide 1/5 of the animal protein eaten worldwide, so how many more people would be starving without fish andshellfish to eat?
Sharks are not the enemy and rarely do they attack randomly, unprovoked. Shark attacks average less than 100 per year worldwide, the vast majority being non-fatal. We kill almost 1 million sharks per year for every one “attack”. According to the Center for Disease Control, 4000 people drown yearly in the United States. Shark related deaths tracked on The Global Shark Attack File over the past 200 years total about 1125 worldwide. They list 11 fatalities as of September, 2011, with none occurring in the US. For comparison, The National Weather Service statistics average 55 lightening related fatalities in the US alone per year, so your odds of being killed by lightening are much higher than ever being attacked by a shark! My husband Bill Graham and our network of friends, including many professional underwater photographers, collectively have tens of thousands of shark encounters without a single “attack” incident. Become informed, understand the facts, and educate your friends and family about sharks.
As responsible humans we must ban shark finning worldwide, protect our shark population, allow them to repopulate themselves, and embrace these precious creatures. Our marine ecosystem depends on it. The megladon, a giant shark averaging 50 feet in length that was plentiful in our waters 1.5 - 25 million years ago, can only be found in museums today. Their fossilized giant teeth are uncovered by ocean divers and prized among collectors. In contrast, the majestic blue whale population has increased as much as 10 fold over the past 50 years from its low of less than 2,000 in 1964. The ban on whaling put an end to their declining population and while still endangered, the blue whale is a perfect example of the progress we can make together. We must now do the same for the sharks!
For more information and education please see:
sharkattackfile.net - Information compiled on shark attacks over the past 2
centuries by the Shark Research Institute.
sharksavers.org - Information and education on sharks worldwide
sharks.org - The Shark Research Institute
na.oceana.org - Oceana – Join the supporters, join the petitions, help the aquatic ecosystem worldwide.
acottonphoto.com - For some amazing photography!