Sunday, September 1, 2013

In the aftermath of Shark Week, I’d like to take a moment to reiterate a phrase so frequently uttered by scientists that it is somewhat of a cliché-we pose far more of a danger to sharks then they do to us. Due to media, including the iconic film Jaws, sharks are portrayed as assassins of the seas, when in fact they are generally docile creatures. In 135 years, there have been 198 unprovoked great white shark attacks in North America. The most common reasons of this are bleeding, as a shark can sense one drop of blood in a million drops of water. Shiny jewelry, bright clothing, excessive splashing are all contributing factors. The most likely times for a shark attack are dawn, dusk, and night, when sharks feed. You are far more likely to die from utilizing a product designed for a left-handed user, scalding water, a terrorist attack, or drowning. Jellyfish claim more lives than sharks, and you are 30 times more likely to die from falling airplane parts than from the allegedly aggressive swimmers.

Not only are sharks primarily passive, they are also vital to our environment. They maintain balance in the food chain, and therefore play a crucial role in the preservation of the ocean, the ecosystem which absorbs the most carbon dioxide. 73 million sharks are killed annually, which translates to 10,000 per hour. By the end of said Shark Week, we will have killed 1,848,000 sharks. Many sharks are now suffering excruciating demises from being eating alive by fish after having their fins sawed off. This is due to the immense market for shark fins. Shark fin soup is particularly prominent in Asia, and 89% of people surveyed admitted to having it at a wedding banquet.  The consumption of shark fins is not beneficial. In fact, it can actually be harmful due to the levels of mercury, which is 42 times a safe amount. 98% of the animal is wasted.  According to Chinese folklore, the ingestion of sharks enhances appetite, rejuvenates, and strengthened muscles, bones, kidneys and lungs. However, these claims are completely and utterly unfounded. Very few countries have outright banned shark finning, and those that have enacted regulations rarely enforce them.

If none of the arguments prior have provoked any compassion, consider the long-term effects of a world without sharks: gradually, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would accumulate.  If we were to lose the oceans, 1/3 of our food would be depleted.  We would die long, tortured deaths. Deaths much like those of nearly 100 million sharks.

 International Shark Attack File, February 6, 2012. Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida. August 12, 2013. Last updated: February 6, 2012


, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department