Kings of the Sea
Why should you care about sharks? Well, there are plenty of reasons actually... Sharks play a very important role in the oceans in a way that an average fish does not. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Additionally, their depletion would seriously disrupt the economy.
In other words, we need sharks and they need us.
Here's a great bit from a Scientific American article that discusses their importance:
As top predators, sharks control the density and behavior of their prey, indirectly affecting the abundance of species farther down the food chain — a trophic cascade. For example, too few sharks can result in too many large reef fish preying on smaller species that keep coral reef algae in check. As a result, the reef can become overwhelmed by algae, killing the coral.
The economy suffers as well. A study published in the May edition of Oryx noted the value of global shark catches is now $630 million and declining whereas shark ecotourism, which currently generates more than $314 million a year worldwide, is on the rise and will likely reach $780 million within 20 years. The authors concluded that protecting sharks would benefit a wide economic spectrum and help several species recover.
Sharks have survived and thrived for roughly 450 million years, but thanks to humans, populations are now declining faster than ever. Marine pollution, ocean acidification, and habitat alteration are among the many threats that sharks face, but one major issue is shark finning: the process of cutting off the fins of a shark and discarding the body, often still alive, at sea.
This cruel, wasteful practice is currently the greatest threat facing sharks, contradicting all principles of sustainable shark fisheries management and conservation. Annually, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins due to demand for superfluous products like shark fin soup, an exorbitant food that has assumed cultural value, but is completely unnecessary for survival or health.
These fins fetch a high price: A pound of shark fin can cost $300, and depending on where it is served, some people will pay anywhere from a hundred dollars all the way up to $2,000 for a bowl of shark fin soup! So, not only are you emptying your wallet for soup, but you're emptying our oceans of these prehistoric predators.
Talk about a lose-lose investment.
So how do we help? As humans, we need to realize the catastrophic complications that our actions are causing. Simply put, without sharks, our planet will not function at an optimal level. Unless we make a change, mankind will undoubtedly begin to notice the negative effects.
First and foremost, the sooner the demand falls, the sooner the supply will. We can take a step in the right direction once we decide that an overpriced bowl of soup is less important than the health of our oceans and the creatures that inhabit it.
Additionally, supporting organizations like The Shark Trust directly makes a difference in global conservation. Every dollar they receive goes to essential aspects such as educating the public, conducting scientific research, and pushing for governmental policy changes.
By acknowledging our own species' selfishness, as well as donating to charitable environmental groups whose goal is to safeguard sharks, less of these vital predators will be mindlessly slaughtered and hopefully our oceans can flourish the way they were meant to.