A sleek fin emerges from the water and cuts towards a an unaware swimmer, speeding up slightly the owner of the fin heads straight forward and it looks like blood will be shed soon. Just as the shark hits the swimmer’s leg it turns and runs the length of its body along his leg and vanishes into the blue, leaving the swimmer unharmed, and with one hell of a story to tell his friends. Sharks are actually incredibly docile creatures, and almost all of shark “attacks” are them just trying to figure out what you are, and seeing as the have no hands the best way to feel you out is their mouth. On average vending machines kill more people by falling on them than sharks do by attacking people, and hippos are by far the deadliest animals to humans on earth killing nearly 2900 people a year, so why do sharks get a bad rep? They are the last true super predators left in the sea, invincible to all but the largest and most cunning of sea mammals like Orcas, and of course us. Unfortunately due to our fear shark populations around the world are declining rapidly, and only we can stop it.
Shark populations across the world are in trouble, with some species such as the scalloped hammerhead having their population decrease 89% in the past 15 years. Why is the population declining? Sharks trapped in fishing nets, overfishing for shark fin soup, and the general degradation of the health of the oceans. The death tolls are staggering, with nearly 100 million being killed every year for just their dorsal fins. With such a huge decrease in numbers we are beginning to affect the health of our oceans. The problem with removing such a huge number of super predators from the ecosystem is that fish populations will skyrocket and consume all of the phytoplankton available to them, and move on to coral reefs. With 65% of the world’s oxygen being produced by these plankton the ramifications would be deadly for nearly every species visible to the naked eye.
Swimming in the waters of the Bahamas a Tiger shark makes its way around a small bay along with other tiger sharks, and they don’t seem to be doing anything. Whats even more interesting is that 70% of these sharks are females. For years nobody knew why why female tiger sharks grouped up in such disproportionate numbers until a group of researchers from florida decided to finally look into it. As it turns out many of these females are pregnant and come to the calm waters of the bahamas to give birth. This is why tiger sharks have such a bad reputation, because when the sharks are pregnant their hormone levels skyrocket and they become very defensive. The interesting this is that tiger sharks have the lowest levels of testosterone out of any shark in the world making them inherently less aggressive than other sharks. The only reason that these sharks are ever seen as being aggressive is because they are protecting themselves and their unborn pups, because otherwise these sharks are relatively calm and prefer much deeper water than people usually swim in.
How can we fix this problem? Spread awareness, make people aware that sharks are not nearly as dangerous as the media makes them out to be. Volunteer at an aquarium or a conservation group and help out. The biggest issue that sharks face is their reputation, and because of this it can be easy to help people understand that they are just another creature in the ocean, and while they still are dangerous and deserve respect, they definitely do not deserve to be hunted to extinction. Frequent diver Verena Robinson puts into words just how amazing a shark encounter is: “I once saw a tiger shark while diving in hawaii and it was one of the most amazing experiences in my life, it was so huge and it simply did not care that we were there. For the first time I realised that we are not the top of the food chain, in fact we are so far down from him that he didn’t even give us a second thought and just floated right past us. Encounters like these are part of the reason why sharks must be saved” having an experience like this is something all of us should enjoy someday, but if we don’t act fast we could lose the opportunity.