Save the Sharks

We’re gonna need a bigger boat, or maybe a bigger heart, because at the moment, we kill more sharks than they kill humans.

Reese Bennett, Columnist

Many people fear common things, such as spiders, the dark, or heights. One huge common fear is of the ocean, or in particular, sharks. Sharks are generally pretty scary looking, and some, like the goblin shark, are even downright atrocious. Sharks host a mouth full of multiple rows of razor-sharp teeth, have pretty creepy eyes, are large and generally fast, and usually are not noticed right until they attack a sea animal or the occasional human. All these aspects of these fearsome water-dwelling fish are frightening, so it does make sense that people are afraid of them. However, the rate of deaths for sharks is staggering, counting at about 100 million each year, although some even believe it can range from 63 to 273 million, according to Smithsonian Ocean Portal, and many deaths are unreasonable and caused by humans.

One popular and extremely inhumane death countless sharks experience is finning, according to Humane Society International. Shark fin soup is an expensive delicacy, and many people enjoy it. Since it is in such high demand, sharks are killed constantly to be used in this meal. The worst part is how they are killed, though. Fishermen will catch these sharks and then slice off their fins while they are alive. Sharks cannot swim without fins, and when they stop swimming, they die; still, the sharks are tossed into the ocean, left to bleed out, suffocate and drown, or be eaten. Shark meat is also frequently consumed in many coastal locations, even though eating that meat can cause one to consume toxic chemicals absorbed by these apex predators. This can drastically heighten the chances of getting lead poisoning. Sharks are killed to make other products as well, like shark leather purses and other items, cosmetics, energy drinks, and more, according to WeLoveSharks.

WeLoveSharks states that another cause of death is “shark culling,” where people purposely hunt down and kill sharks to lower the population of them in a certain area. This activity is highly debated on whether it is good or bad. There have been lots of shark attacks, producing both survivors and fatalities, but humans are entering the shark’s territory, not the other way around. Plus, about 100 innocent dolphins and other varieties of sea life were killed in nets meant for sharks from 2013 to 2014 alone. Although this isn’t to lower the population specifically, shark hunting is a popular reality that harms sharks immensely, too. An abundance of fishermen enjoy participating in sport fishing competitions for sharks. WeLoveSharks also states that the sharks caught are often left to hang out of the water for hours, causing them to suffocate, and the special hooks used to catch the sharks can rip the throat, stomach, or tail of the creature as it thrashes around in an attempt to escape. Even non-harmful sharks, such as the endangered whale shark, are targeted for these activities, especially because the whale shark’s fin specifically is considered the ultimate trophy.

Nets meant for commercial fishing are also frequently fatal to sharks, since many extend for miles, and fishermen don’t always notice or decide to release trapped sharks. It doesn’t help that a brain disease is also weeding out sharks by causing their brain to become confused and cause them to swim onto shore. The concerning increase in ocean litter is also harming creatures.

However, there is budding hope for sharks. Scientists have developed a drone that can distinguish between a human, shark, and other marine life, according to British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC. This technology should lower the amount of shark attacks by warning swimmers of nearby apex predators and has the possibility to in turn lower the hate or fear aimed at sharks. In addition, new ways to lower plastic pollution in the ocean should aid these creatures and their habitat. The amount of sports fishing tournaments should be lowered as well. At the very least, the way the sharks are caught at tournaments should be altered; if humans just can’t stop themselves from participating in these competitions, then they should be caught with hooks other than a J-hook so they aren’t harmed when caught and can be released. If you want to support the safety of sharks, you can check out the Project AWARE Foundation, Oceana, Shark Friendly Marinas, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, and tons more. Just make sure to do your research before choosing an organization to contribute to. Plus, contributing to many of these organizations does not always take the form of donations. Sometimes, you only need to sign a petition or write an email to the government, and some of them even let you know your own ways you can help at home.