Sharks: misunderstood

Our planet’s oceans are in danger of losing one of the most amazing animals on Earth: sharks. Sadly, when people say ‘shark’ they often associate these animals as dangerous and frightening creatures, avoiding them at all costs. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sharks are very misunderstood, only attacking humans on very rare occasions, which is very often in mistake for its prey – a seal. In fact, you’re much more likely to get struck by lightning than attacked by a shark! So why is there such an irrational fear of them? And more importantly, why do we ignore the mass numbers of sharks that we slaughter? Over one hundred million a year.

Sadly, their biggest threat is shark fin soup – an Asian delicacy that drives the demand for finning. When an angler catches a shark, their fins are chopped off, returning them to water to bleed to death. Their fins sent to restaurants to be served as soup and as many as 100 million sharks a year are killed for this tradition. This a hideously cruel act which is worsened by others killing sharks for their teeth to be sold as necklaces or souvenirs.

Chinese_cuisine-Shark_fin_soup-03.jpg

Shark fin soup (C) Cedric Seow

Why should we care? Sometimes when I talk to people about this, many say “How does it affect me?” These majestic animals have been on Earth for approx. 400 million year, forming a very important role in our food webs. Many shark species are apex predators, meaning they’re at the top of the food chain. As a result, these sharks keep prey populations healthy, therefore losing them could have catastrophic impacts throughout the ocean and through the animal kingdom. Furthermore, many researchers believe that shark cartilage has a significant role in helping to cure many diseases and illnesses, including cancer. Sharks also boost our economies through tourism. For all of these reasons, and the fact that they are intelligent, majestic animals, it feels unnecessary that they’re killed in the millions for unimportant reasons – soup and souvenirs.

People need to step up more to help fight this battle. One leading organisation who needs your support is The Shark Trust. Become a member and donate their important work. At the very least, sign Bite Back’s petition to end imports of shark fins to Europe.

Even better, spread the word. Talk to your friends and family about this issue and encourage them to sign the petition too. Whatever you do, don’t buy shark products, including shark fin soup and souvenirs. Share this article. Let’s try to change this issue, before it’s too late. Put an end to the culling of our magnificent sharks.

Author profile: Callum McGrathcallum.png

Callum McGrath is a young naturalist, birder, wildlife photographer and wildlife writer from Kent. He has a passion for all wildlife, particularly birds, sharks and, as someone who lives on the coast, jellyfish. He writes his Callum’s Wildlife Diaries blog,   for the local patch project of BBC Wildlife.

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