When asked what I do for a living and replying that I teach people to Scuba Dive, invariably the first questions I get are “Have you ever seen a shark or aren’t you afraid of sharks?” The quick answers are Yes, if I am lucky and No, I am not afraid.
Our obsession and fear of sharks has now lasted for over 40 years. Ever since the release of the movie Jaws. The sound track makes generations of people think a shark is going to eat them in the water and the movie almost destroyed a fledgling industry known as recreational scuba diving. By the late 1960’s the dive industry was in it’s infant stages and in mid 1970 the movie planted a seed of fear that is still going strong today. The population of Great White sharks was almost killed to extinction after the movie launch until governments from many countries stepped in and protected them in 1991. Their numbers are still dangerously low.
Think about this, when you sit down tonight to eat dinner or watch your favorite TV show, around 11,500 sharks will be killed in that time. Humans kill over 100 million sharks a year by over fishing, by-catch and shark finning. Shark finning is the cruelest practice man could ever do to another living animal. Cutting off the sharks fins and throwing the live body over board to suffocate and drown because without its fins it can’t swim to breathe. Sold at over $800 a pound so someone can brag about being wealthy enough to order shark fin soup at $150.00 a bowl.
Why should you care about sharks? First, they are not mindless killing machines that hunt man to eat them. 80% of all shark species aren’t capable of hurting man or are never seen. Second, they have been on earth since before the dinosaurs were here. And third, we need them! About 12 humans a year will die from a shark attack but usually we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and acting in the wrong way. Looking and sounding like their food or attempting to fish where they feed. Sharks have such a critical role in keeping our oceans healthy, by eating the diseased fish and keeping the right balance of carnivores and herbivores, that without them the reefs and all the life that lives on them will become diseased and eventually die. Our coral reefs protect our coastlines, provide medical and scientific research and are home to hundreds of species of life. Sharks keep this fragile balance of life in check.
I encourage you to visit Project Aware to learn more about sharks and what you can do to help our planet. As a diver, educate as many people as possible in the value and importance of sharks. Don’t eat shark, eat only sustainable seafood and support any and all legislation that protects sharks. And finally, please don’t believe everything you see in the movies!
Every great movement started with just one step, we can make a difference.
Happy diving from Aquatic Realm……………………