The Advantages of Sharks
By Callie Richards
"Grey Shark in Blue Water" by Glenda on Pexels.com
Everyone knows the drill by now, someone mentions sharks, and your mind immediately spirals into thinking about the dangers of being in the ocean and the Jaws theme plays ominously in the back of your head. It’s expected, we’ve been taught and conditioned to fear sharks all of our lives, having been force-fed the idea that sharks are only interested in eating anything and everything in sight, but that’s wrong. Sure, sharks can be dangerous, but they’re amazing creatures, while also being beneficial to the ocean’s ecosystem, and the rest of the world.
As the apex predators of the ocean, sharks keep other ocean creature populations in check. Without sharks, the local ecosystem would be thrown off balance which could lead to disastrous effects on the environment, such as the destruction of coral reefs by overgrazing from other sea creatures. The loss of coral reefs would cause the starvation of other marine species and the ocean floor would erode, leading to the loss of food sources and leaving coastal communities in danger of storms and flooding. These are serious environmental problems that are kept in check by the presence of sharks.
Despite being ecological regulators, sharks are amazing. Every summer, approximately 27 million people tune into Shark Week, excited to watch all the captivating features and specials displaying how spectacular sharks are. After a quick Google search, shark tourism is a rapidly growing tourist attraction bringing in approximately 314 million dollars a year, supporting 10,000 jobs. This statistic is only expected to grow globally, coming in at around 780 million in tourist dollars. There’s a certain thrill in being close to such a predator, and people will go out of their way for a once in a lifetime chance to be around sharks, and a live shark is much more profitable than a dead one.
Sharks are important both environmentally and economically, but they’re constantly overlooked in conservation efforts. Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year, either purposefully or accidentally. “Shark finning” is a common practice where fishermen bring up the shark, cut off its fin (which sells for as much as $500 a pound), and then throws the live shark back into the ocean, causing it to die a slow and painful death because it is unable to swim. Other fishermen often accidentally catch sharks in their nets, but don’t properly release them back into the ocean or they keep them for their fins. Without proper regulations, many species of sharks are in danger of going extinct, which could cause major problems not only to the ocean, but to those of us on land.
Sharks are friends to be respected, not to be mislabeled and feared. Without sharks, what would replace Shark Week during the summer, and could anything truly be cooler than a shark tooth necklace souvenir?