I Love Sharks

A couple of weeks ago my Facebook newsfeed was plastered with #ihatesharkweek. I too agree but I thought you might want to know why.

Not only are sharks beautiful, they are essential to reef ecosystems. Actually, the number of sharks present on a reef is a critical marker of that reef’s health. According to http://www.Oceana.org, sharks maintain the balance within the reef system and ensure species diversity. “The loss of sharks has been linked to the decline in coral reefs, seagrass beds and the loss of commercial fisheries,” says Oceana.org.

I’m a scuba diver and I care about the world’s reef systems because I want to go on fantastic vacations, but you should care too.  Sharks protect our food supply. Huh?  Yes, http://www.seashepherd.org points to how shark overfishing damages the shellfish industry because the sharks can no longer keep the rays and other shellfish predators in check. In Belize, shark fishing has damaged the grouper and parrotfish populations. Those fish eat algae that kills coral.
I can hear you, “how many people fish for sharks?” Well the decimation of shark populations around the world has many stories. On the world stage, the most important is the shark fin trade in Asia. Shark fins are a delicacy, and a bowl of soup can cost $100 according to http://www.stopsharkfinning.net. Millions of sharks have been fished in international waters on long lines. The sharks are pulled on board, all of their fins and tails are cut off, and the live shark is discarded back into the water to die: helpless.

Locally, the problem is fear — exacerbated by shows like those during Shark Week. These shows teach us to be fearful of sharks, focusing on stories about attacks on humans and the ferocity of a shark’s bite. The irony of some of these stories is actually amusing. We spent more than a century hunting the prey of great whites in California, seals. Then seals were put on the endangered species list and now have become a pest in some areas of California. Well, as the seal population recovered, so did the Great White population. So now there are more sharks off the coast. Yes, swimming out the back doors of movie stars in Malibu, and now swimmers, surfers, and divers are rightly scared, but sharks were always there. We had created an imbalance in our favor, and now Shark Week scares the nation against sharks.

Save our oceans, love a shark! How?  You can go to the organizations linked in the story or go to http://www.projectaware.org and learn more.


One thought on “I Love Sharks

  1. Upsetting the Balance of Nature: Deforestation
    By Jenn Sanders
    (unfinished draft)

    Everyone should be concerned about maintaining the balance of nature. As an inhabitant of the Earth and its steward, we need to pay attention to the world’s ecosystems. The interdependence of sharks, seals, algae, and coral reefs is one important example, but many citizens will just shake their heads and say, “That doesn’t affect me.” So the question we need to ask is in what ways are people part of the balance of nature and the interconnectedness of life on Earth.

    Consider the decimation of forests around the world. People have been clear-cutting old growth forests for decades, and the deforestation has happened at an alarming rate since the 1970s. Large farm corporations, wealthy land owners, and big business clear the forests primarily for two reasons: to plant cash crops such as palm oil plants or to sell the trees for lumber and paper products. The U.S. consumes more paper products than most other countries: The U.S. has 5% of the worlds population but consumes 30% of the world’s paper products.

    Each year, 16 million hectares of forest disappear (1). Seven countries – Russia, Brazil, Canada, the U.S. China, Indonesia, and the Congo – account for the greatest amounts of forest loss, 60% of the total (2). Deforestation is particularly problematic in places like Brazil and Sumatra (Indonesia) where the old grow forests are being completely devastated. But lest you think that this is only a far-away problem that happens only in far-away places: the U.S. Forestry Services has been allowing clear-cutting of old growth forests on “protected” national park lands for decades as well. The loss of these forests endangers animals like the Sumatran tiger and orangutan, and it permanently changes the air quality and climate for those who live in the region. In addition, the products made from the harvested trees are consumables, and their production process, not to mention the products themselves that will ultimately become waste, do as much damage to the environment as the clear-cutting. (insert data) Consider the machinery, fuel, carbon emissions, factory energy, and chemical processing required to harvest and produce those consumables, and all of the pollution that results from each of these. This affects YOU! It affects all of us.

    (How it affects us and what we can do to change it)

    1. http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/deforest/deforest.html
    2. http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/deforest/deforest.html

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