We fear what we don’t understand. And most of us are afraid of sharks, because we don’t understand them. This includes me, especially when I lose my kite board and “body drag” in the deep ocean.
Photo from Northwest Kiteboarding Forums
With the above being said, I have a secret wish of free swimming with sharks because I am fascinated by these creatures. I sometimes daydream of holding their fins and swimming with them across the Atlantic. What if we can pet them, just like we pet our cats? 😀
From Jaws to Animal Planet’s Shark Week, the popular notion is that sharks are scary, will bite you, and that you should watch your back while you’re swimming in the deep blue ocean. There’s so much fear, yet fascination (hence Shark Week), around this creature.
So why do sharks attack human? Can we put ourselves in their shoes? I’m not a shark expert, though I’ve done some research on my own.
Bull Sharkie: Ugh, there is no more fish where we used to live. We had to swim over to another river mouth and the swim was long. I’m hungry. Where’s fish? Hm, something smells interesting. and water is pretty clear here. What is that? Lets investigate (*bite*). Tastes like crap (*spitting it out*)
And there goes a shark attack! While the event is tragic, it is convenient for us to think that the a “murderous and vicious” shark just ventured into a “human” territory close to the shoreline and bit human beings.
Rather than “blaming” the shark for attacking human beings , can we reflect on how our collective behavior led to such attacks?
First off, the ocean is sharks’ territory, and we are technically in their territory when we’re in the ocean.
Secondly, I think our collective behavior probably caused sharks to migrate to areas where human beings congregate. Factors such as construction, landfill, global warming, and water pollution may have changed shark’s behavior and living habitat, leading to an increase in shark attacks in certain places. For instance, according to IPS News, bull sharks have been displaced from Ipojuca and Merepe Rivers in the Bay of Suape to the Jaboatão River in Brazil, given a number of reasons including blocked access due to port construction and reduction of prey. The decrease in Plankton in Suape, due to global warming, may have reduced the population of fish, shark’s prey. Pollution from the Jaboatão River, which carries animal blood and entrails from slaughterhouses, may have also attracted sharks to the area.
Given effects of global warming, sharks have been migrating to regions where they were not normally seen, which may have caused the increase in shark attacks in some places.
Despite the shark attacks, odds are stacked against sharks!
Photo from USA Today
Shark finning has caused a drastic decline in shark population. In 2012, the University of Florida International Shark Attack File listed a global total of 80 unprovoked attacks. In contrast, 3 sharks are killed every second, and 200,000 sharks are gone every day, according to Discovery Channel. Up to 73 million shark every year are dead so their fins can be used to make shark fin soup.
I’m Chinese, and I am not proud to say that Asians are the biggest consumers of shark fin soup, because shark is considered a highly priced delicacy in China. I don’t think the majority of the population that consume shark fin soup are educated about the consequences of their food choices. And sadly, they may not even care about this topic, perhaps because the immediate impact on them is minimal. Other than consumers, suppliers from countries such as Spain, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand are also contributing to the rapid decline in shark population.
Luckily enough, the international community, which includes representatives such as Yao Meng and Sir Richard Branson, are raising awareness on saving sharks. However, with the rapid decline in shark population, I think we should all collectively act faster if we want to save the species. Given the rising wealth from Chinese, it is likely that demand for shark fin soup will increase. I think the most effective ways to help sharks are to raise awareness and implement legislation to protect the species.
Photo from World News Australia
Take Action Now: What can YOU do to help the sharks and restore the balance in the ocean?
1. Raise awareness and let people know that sharks are not enemies!
2. Don’t consume shark fin soup!
3. Educate yourself by going to websites such as WildAid, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Shark Trust, Shark Project. Get involved. Donate!
Photo from WildAid
What have you been doing to save sharks? Do you want to share your amazing shark encounter experience with us?
Furthermore, I’d love to hear what you think the best way to raise awareness and save sharks is.
Please leave a comment below and add as much specific detail as you can.
Thank you for reading and contributing here.
Have fun playing in the ocean! 😉
P.S. I am not undermining the severity of shark attacks, nor am I making human beings wrong. I just want to inspire people to think deeper and understand how we collectively are causing events around the world.