Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I love sharks *waves to Cut Tail*.
They scare and fascinate me. They’re beautiful graceful creatures who have remained unchanged in the 400 million years they’ve been around. They’re supremely adapted to their environment and are the driving force behind a lot of fish and sea mammal evolution – their prey had to evolve ways to stay one-step ahead of these streamlined super sensitive predators.
Ultimately they’re are some of the most beautiful fish in our oceans, yet because of the mass media has portrayed them as mindless killing machines that will stop at nothing until they’ve wiped every last human on the planet, we’re quite happy to sit back and watch at they vanish from our oceans. Whale sharks, the gentle giants of the deep and Great White sharks (made famous by ‘Jaws’) are both listed on the highly endangered list and no one seems to be doing anything about it.
Whales were once portrayed in the same way and almost hunted to extinction, public pressure forced sanctions and international regulations against the whaling industry but there are no international regulations to protect sharks. Only seventeen countries have banned shark fining and it remains a multi-billion dollar industry, often the lives of the fishermen are worth less than what their catch will bring them and they will do so even if it means violating international law to continue their trade. It’s been estimated that 90% of the shark population has been lost in the past few years, over 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins (horribly they can take hours and sometimes days to die after fining).
Sharks are not dumb creatures, they’re highly intelligent (did you know you can train them?) and incredibly curious. Often when one bites it’s usually not because it’s hungry but wondering what the heck you are and just as you might reach out and touch something you’re curious about, they do the same… only they don’t have hands and have more teeth. There are thought to be more than 375 different species and we know very little about them, in fact we know practically nothing about the whale shark (thought to get as big as 30ft) and in 2006 a new species of hammerhead shark was discovered.
One of the problems is that the UN can’t make laws over international waters, to really make a different countries have to come together and come up with some sort of agreement and quotas concerning shark fishing. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen, to put it bluntly we’re all too busy screwing with each other to take time out and think about the oceans. We know more about outer space than we do about the sea, we seem to assume that intelligent alien lifeforms will be somewhere out in space whilst ignoring the fact that they might well be under the oceans.
As we know so little about the sea we still don’t understand the ecological effects of what shark fining is doing. There’s a type of plankton that provides almost 70% of the carbon dioxide to oxygen conversion that we humans are very much in need off, if we kill off the sharks then there will be a boom in the numbers of fish that feed off this plankton… you can see where this is going can’t you?
Sharks need to be saved but before we can really get down to the business of saving them people need to understand exactly why we should, sure they’re not cuddly and fuzzy like tigers or pandas but they are just as important. You are highly unlikely to be killed by a shark, they aren’t mindless killing machines and ‘Jaws’ is fictional. I’ve blogged about it before and I’ll probably blog about it again, even if you don’t quite see the appeal to sharks I do you have to appreciate the beauty of these creatures.
Earlier this year I adopted a Great White shark through the Shark Trust, he’s called Cut Tail and is usually found around the coast of California (or possibly the oil rigs of Scotland, I didn’t get a postcard it was more likely to be one of his relatives). If you’ve got a relative who has asked for a charity donation for Christmas then you can’t really do much wrong by adopting them a shark, if you don’t fancy helping out with Cut Tail there’s several basking sharks up for adoption as well.
For more information, these links are pretty good:
Saving Sharks (tips on how to get involved)
Sharkwater (website for the documentary)