Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Shark Week: Setting the Record Straight


It’s that time of the year again! Shark Week is back, and with it comes lots of old fears and myths about sharks. Shark week was originally developed to raise awareness and respect for sharks.  Unfortunately, it has devolved into a pop-science fear fest in recent years.

Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but today many shark species are threatened with extinction. As apex predators, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems by keeping populations of other fish healthy and in check.  For example, tiger sharks have been linked to the quality of seagrass beds through their prey, dugongs and green sea turtles, which forage in these beds. Without tiger sharks to control their prey’s foraging, an important habitat is lost.

Connecting sharks to death, blood and gore stimulates an intense fear of these important predators that can actually be detrimental to conservation efforts. So let’s take a minute to set the record straight. Here are a few things to keep in mind while celebrating shark week:

Shark attacks, thankfully, are very rare. Scientists verified that about 100 million sharks are killed annually, up from the 73 million that had been documented previously. In contrast, sharks generally attack about 70 people on average each year, resulting in a handful of deaths. While sharks killed 12 people last year, we kill that many sharks every four seconds!

Shark finning is the practice of catching a shark and slicing off its fins and then discarding the body at sea.  Finning is the second largest threat to shark populations worldwide. Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year for shark finning.

The practice of shark finning is already banned in US waters and Governor Cuomo recently signed a law that bans the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins in New York State. Taking action to stop the shark fin trade and helping to save millions of sharks globally, New York now joins California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, American Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands, which have all enacted similar laws.

I love celebrating Shark Week because it raises awareness for sharks and their important role in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems. So instead of worrying about bumping into Megalodon at the beach, or whether or not insurance companies will cover a “sharknado,” what we humans ought to be afraid of is the demise of these ancient creatures. We all have a role to play in protecting sharks around the world.

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One Comment

  1. Wendy Jones
    Posted August 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Good work Annie! Important work.

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