Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

Saving Shark Week one #SharkFact at a Time


It’s that time of the year again! #SharkWeek 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 (Shark of Darkness…really?). But it’s time to stop selling pseudoscience as science. Instead, in the true spirit of Shark Week, here are some fun #SharkFacts. And, as it turns out, there’s so much fascinating real information about sharks that we didn’t even have to make anything up!

#SharkFact: The scientists are right- Megalodon is extinctMegalodon isn't realRemember last summer when Discovery tried to convince us that Megalodon, a 64-ft PREHISTORIC shark, never went extinct?  Well, I guess they did a good job because a Discovery Channel survey showed that almost 75% of people thought that Megalodon is still alive — despite what scientists say. Yikes!

#SharkFact: The footage of a bull shark swimming in Lake Ontario earlier this summer was a big hoaxsharkweekblog_2_lakeontarioThis summer, Discovery Channel stooped to a new low: A video of what appeared to be a bull shark swimming off of Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario that surfaced earlier this summer turned out to be an elaborate marketing ploy by Discovery Canada to drum up publicity for Shark Week. But to local residents on Wolfe Island, where the video was supposed to have been filmed, the stunt was a lot more frightening than it was funny.After a week-long frenzy of speculation, Discovery Canada decided to finally come clean about the hoax…but only after reports that people were too scared to swim in what they thought were shark-infested waters. Discovery’s goal in pulling off this stunt was to get people talking about sharks—and they were happy with the results! Conversations were indeed sparked; just not the ones we ought to be having.

#SharkFact: Sharks have roamed our oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but today many shark species are threatened with extinction due to excessive fishing and/or loss of habitat.whale shark backgroundThe most recent estimates suggest around 100 million sharks are killed by commercial fisheries every year!

#SharkFact: Shark Finning is the second largest threat to shark populations worldwide.Mutilated Sharks on Sea FloorShark finning is the practice of catching a shark and slicing off its fins and then discarding the body at sea. Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year for shark finning. The practice of shark finning is already banned in US waters and in 2013, CCE worked to pass 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.

#SharkFact: Many sharks are apex predators and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of ocean ecosystems by keeping populations of other fish healthy and in check.Tiger sharks and their preyFor 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.

#SharkFact: Many sharks never get larger than three feet in length.tiny sharkOf the 500 or so species of sharks, few look like the sharks of Sharknado or Jaws.

#SharkFact: Basking sharks are the second largest living fish in the world!basking-sharkWhile basking sharks may be very large, they are filter feeders and do not attack humans. These large, non-aggressive fish feed primarily of plankton and other small sea creatures.

#SharkFact: In 2013, a dying 26-foot, 5,000 pound basking shark washed up on a Babylon beach, drawing attention and concern from local residentsbasking_shark_long_island_2Read more Long Island #SharkFacts

#SharkFact: While sharks killed 12 people last year, we kill that many sharks every four seconds!most dangerous animal aliveShark 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. The most recent shark attack to happen in Long Island was 53 years ago. A man was bitten by a shark while spear fishing out of Oyster Bay on the Long Island Sound in July of 1961. He was bitten on his fingers and leg, and survived the attack, which was considered a provoked attack since Junker reportedly had speared the fish beforehand.

#SharkFact: Sharks are incredibly important for overall ocean health and, in particular, for maintaining the health of coral reefs.sharks and corals

Did you know that deep beneath the open waters on the Mid-Atlantic’s continental slope lie untouched, vibrant deep sea coral communities, many of which are being discovered for the first time? Studies have shown that coral reef ecosystems with high numbers of apex predators tend to have greater biodiversity and higher densities of individual species. Preserving healthy shark populations also helps to maintain the health of these deep sea coral reef ecosystems found off the Atlantic Coast.  #SaveOurCorals

#SharkFact: The Mid-Atlantic’s deep sea coral communities are important habitats for sharks, which use reef structures to nurse, and provide safe haven for a range of sea life seeking shelter from open waters.deep sea coral Unfortunately, deep sea corals are threatened by damaging fishing gear, such as trawlers. In fact, one pass of trawl gear can destroy corals that have been growing for hundreds, even thousands, of years. The good news is that bottom trawling is not yet occurring in the hearts of the canyons themselves or at the depths that most corals are found. Right now we have an historic opportunity to protect them before irreversible damage is done. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council (MAFMC) is considering adopting broad-based protection measures for canyons. You can help #SaveOurCorals from damaging fishing gear by weighing in at public meetings this fall!

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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