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How to Help Protect and Save Wild Sharks

Updated on May 19, 2014
Sharks are in danger from human carelessness.
Sharks are in danger from human carelessness. | Source

It seems to have taken the human species a long time to understand the balance of nature, the good that can come from having the correct number of predator and prey in the wild and that our fears of most animals are unfounded.

Sharks are one of those animals that are in need of a good public relations campaign. Their depiction as killers, actively hunting down humans for dinner and the over-sensationalizing of the few shark fatalities a year has made it harder for people to have sympathy for these ocean creatures.

Humans are endangering the lives of sharks through pollution, fishing and finning. Each carries its own problems and in some parts of the world, these practices are decimating natural shark populations.

But there are things you can do to help.

Before you begin, test your shark knowledge. How much do you really know about them?

What You Should Know About Sharks

According the Florida Museum of Natural History, there are about 400 different species of sharks. Sharks have changed very little over their 400 million year history. Their skeletons are made up of cartilage instead of bones, giving them flexibility. Many (but not all) species of sharks have to swim in order to breathe. (This is why capture in nets can be very detrimental to sharks.)

Sharks can see pretty well but may be far-sighted (scientists are still working this out) but they can hear extremely well. Sharks have layers of teeth that break off and are immediately replaced. The animal can shed thousands of teeth over his or her lifetime.

Test Your Shark Knowledge!


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Why Do Sharks Have Such A Bad Reputation?

Sharks have been a favorite villain of the dark, murky underworld of the ocean. Movies like Jaws play on human fears of these animals.

In human history in general, predators tend to get a bad rap. Think about the over-hunting of wolves and lions; these are animals that are now struggling to survive even as conservation groups work tirelessly to save them.

Though shark attacks can be horrendous, they are thankfully very rare. Sharks are the ones that have an enemy, humans, and what we do to them makes the thrills of horror films seem mild and innocuous.

Pollution

Because sharks are predators and are at or near the top of the food chain, pollution within the ocean threatens their existence. If sharks eat fish that contain high levels of toxins such as mercury, those toxins can then accumulate in the animal and build up.

Sharks are also the victim of garbage floating in the ocean. They can become entangled in garbage and plastic, causing them to drown. They can also mistake garbage for food, eating items that will not digest and can cause blockage and even death.

Fishing

Because sharks are migratory and often swim in large groups, an entanglement in fishing nets can decimate a group. This is called “bycatch” and according to BBC it accounts for a large portion of shark fatalities each season.

Sharks can also be caught in large groups for the practice of finning (see below) in order to harvest their fins.

Sharks are the victims of human cruelty
Sharks are the victims of human cruelty | Source

Finning

One of the most heartbreaking practices is Shark Finning. Mostly in East Asia, sharks are caught and their fins are cut off to make soup. The animal is then thrown back into the water, alive and bleeding, to die painfully and slowly.

According to Humane Society International, millions of sharks die from this practice each year.

The practice is especially bad because it allows for a large number of sharks to be captured and slaughtered at one time since the bodies will not need to be brought to shore.

The fins are used to make shark fin soup which is a traditional dish served at some weddings in that part of the world. It is also served at restaurants.

Sharks are also used for medicines in some parts of the world.

As awareness of this cruel practice is raised, countries are beginning to ban the trade, export and import or shark fins.

Sanctuaries are being set up as safe havens for sharks to live. These sanctuaries offer new revenue sources in the form of tourism, attempting to make up for the economic impacts of the sanctions on shark fin trades and sales.

Countries That Import the Most Shark Products

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A markerArgentina -
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B markerIndia -
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C markerIndonesia -
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D markerMexico -
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E markerSpain -
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F markerTaiwan -
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G markerUnited States -
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Countries That Catch The Most Sharks

Country
Tons Per Year
Argentina
46, 461
India
81,237
Indonesia
107,290
Mexico
29,315
Spain
55, 790
Taiwan
40,776
United States
36,906
http://saveourseas.com/articles/how_many_sharks_are_caught_each_year

How Can The Average Person Help

According to the Discovery Channel some of the ways the average person can help save sharks include:

  • Lobbying your representatives for shark conservation laws. Lobbying groups helped to get an anti-finning law into place in 2009.

  • Spreading the word about the inhumane practices of shark fin soup. Ban any establishment that serves it.

  • Stopping marinas from promoting shark fishing for sport. In some countries, shark fishing is promoted as a sport for tourists. But the animal is often killed and left to rot as the tourist rarely has the means to utilize the animal.

  • Banning commercial fishing in certain areas. Commercial fishing with large nets accounts for much of the decline in shark populations. Creating safe zones in areas where sharks congregate will help insure population stabilization.

Despite the reputation and the media-hype, sharks are in danger of population decimation by human activities and greed. Public awareness and activism is needed in order to stop the cruelty, inhumane practices and disrespect of this ancient predator.

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    • profile image

      Ruth Lanham 4 years ago

      Outstanding job. Thank you so much for bringing this issue forward.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared with followers and on social networking sites. Thanks for this information. The health or distress of the oceans affects all humanity, even me in the middle of the USA. When I get chances, I will speak, write, and petition for shark conservation.

      I heard one time that when a human lies on a surfboard and paddles it with arms and legs, that looks to a shark like an ugly seal, who takes a bite to taste and see. I forget if they like the taste or if usually they take just one bite. Have you heard about that speculation?

    • LCDWriter profile image
      Author

      L C David 4 years ago from Florida

      Thanks so much Ruth and B. Leeky. I've been reading and researching about sharks and am absolutely shocked at their treatment and struggles. There are some pretty graphic finning videos out there I couldn't bear to watch very much of.

      No animal should be treated this way for any reason.

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks for raising our awareness about sharks. I only hope that people become as peaceable as sharks - killing only for food.

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