It seems that for the longest time, I’ve been afraid of sharks. I remember when I was a few years younger I watched Jaws and I was so frightened, I thought sharks were swimming around my bed. I couldn’t sleep soundly for days. It wasn’t a fear I faced every day, so I forgot about it soon after. Recently in Marine Biology classes, we have been learning about sharks. Of course, my fear was reawakened. The simple sight of a shark, visible teeth about to shut, brought me to tears. But, why?
Why was I so terrified? I have never been bitten, or swam with a shark. I don’t know anyone who has been bitten, either. So, why did they terrify me? Why did a mere picture of the creature scare me to wit’s end? It’s simple: it’s because the media makes them out to be scary. The media makes it seem as if sharks are our biggest enemy, and whenever one of them spots a human, they’re dying to take a bite. For most of my life, I’ve believed that; For most of my life, I too was scared and wrongly informed. But now I know better.
Sharks are beautiful creatures, some of the oldest on the planet. They were here 400 million years ago and they’re still here now. They are also a vital part of life on Earth. The scary thing is, though, that they’re dying out. They’re dying because of humans. Humans who think they’re monsters, and humans who are much more monstrous than they can ever be.
Sharks are the basis of a multi-million dollar industry: shark-finning. What is shark-finning? A horrible and vicious way to attain money. Shark-finning is the act of catching a shark solely for its fins, cutting the fins off (while the shark is still very much alive), and throwing their bleeding bodies back into the ocean. They can no longer swim, so they either die by loss of blood or an underwater type of asphyxiation.
Now, I know how much I cried seeing the picture of a shark about to strike, but it doesn’t compare to how sad I was seeing a poor shark being sliced up, and thrown back into the water. What’s worse? The men doing this to them don’t care one bit- not a single shred of sympathy for the sharks. They take pride in doing what they’re doing. They want the money. They’re greedy and they couldn’t care less for the sharks.
Sharks are being killed by the thousands. Now, shark-finning is illegal in many countries, but it happens nonetheless. (There are also placed where shark-finning is illegal, but the importation of fins are still legal) The oceans are vast and the surveillance is limited. Every 40 seconds, a shark is being finned. Shark populations have decreased up to 90%. They need help, and they need it quickly.
You may be wondering why shark fins are so important and why it’s a multi-million dollar industry. Shark fins are used to make ‘Shark fin soup,’ a Chinese delicacy served to boost one’s social status. A single fin costs up to 200 USD per pound. That’s a lot of money, which grabs a lot of interest amongst fishermen. The sad thing is, the shark fins add no flavour whatsoever to the soup, but rather a gelatinous base. The flavour comes from other types of meat broths.
So, by now, you know what shark-finning is, the extremity of the problem, and why people are so interested in them, but I’m pretty sure you’re wondering why you should be interested. Here’s why: We need sharks to survive. Sharks regulate the oceans, keeping it in balance. They’re the top of the food chain and an important part of the ecosystem. We, as inhabitants of Earth, cannot afford to lose such an important creature. If sharks become extinct, the entire ecosystem
will could collapse. Other fish will become overly populated- for example fish that eat algae. This would cause a chain reaction, and the amount of algae will decrease. Algae creates ~70% of the oxygen in the ocean, and the ocean creates ~70% of the oxygen in the world. Now, that, is important.
Okay, so you know sharks important, but they still scare you, don’t they? Of course they would, with shows like “Jaws” and whatnot. Sharks are actually more afraid of us than we are of them. Only about an average of 50-70 people a year are attacked. Why? Because from afar our body structures resemble that of a seals, on of a shark’s prey. Most of the time, “death by a shark” is actually death by loss of blood from the bite, not from the shark tearing you to pieces and all the other things the media says. More people die by a drink-machine falling on them, than by a shark. More people die by being kicked by a donkey, than by a shark. Sharks are actually gentle creatures, and if you’re a professional, you could even play with them. (Also, if you have their trust and your heart rate is low) We kill MILLIONS more sharks than they’d ever kill humans. Who should be afraid of who, really?
In conclusion, sharks are important and nothing to fear. People all over the world should be fighting to save them. How can you help? Firstly, don’t think of them as frightening, think of them as ancient and beautiful creatures, who were here long before us. Next, see what your neighborhood/city/country is doing to protect sharks and see if you could help. Rallies/petitions/waves are good ways to get the word out. In the same manner, if the place you live supports these acts, see if there are groups trying to ban shark-finning and try to help.
I have been afraid of sharks all my life, but now I know better. I will try my best, from now on, to do whatever I can to help save sharks. I love sharks, now. Sure, it’ll take a while for me to stop cringing at the sight of them, but it’ll pass. They’re wonderful, and they deserve to stay on Earth until the very end.