With the weekend upon us, we’re taking a moment to pay homage to the stars of Shark Week—the legendary ocean roamers themselves. Every summer, millions tune in to the week-long shark spectacle on Discovery. The drama is often irresistible with stirring headings such as “Buzzsaw Killer”, “Wrath of a Great White” and “The Killing Games”. However, besides the jaw-dropping footage, Shark Week offers an opportunity to clear up common misunderstandings about sharks and to learn more about the great risks to shark populations and their ecosystems.
Sharks are among the oldest species on the planet, appearing even before the existence of dinosaurs. Their remarkable evolution has made them exceptionally intelligent, resilient, efficient, and graceful. However, due to habitat destruction, hunting, and overfishing, crucial shark populations are declining at a rapid pace. Scientific resources estimate that they’ve declined about 90% in just a single generation. For perspective, this means that about 3 sharks are killed every second.
Sharks are also a keystone species in the ecosystems they inhabit. As the dominating predators, sharks consume the dying and weak animals, leaving only the healthy ones to reproduce and keeping populations in balance. Recent studies on coral reefs in the Pacific and the Caribbean support this, finding that reefs with denser shark populations were exponentially healthier and supported a high abundance of sea life than those that had been depleted.
Two of the greatest factors contributing to their removal are overfishing and fin trading. Countless organizations, governments, and individuals around the world are taking action to combat these practices, and their efforts are being met with success! With the implementation of legislation, various locations are seeing a dramatic rise in shark populations as well as ecotourism, generating around $300 million in revenue per year.
It’s no secret that sharks often get a bad rep due to the limited and biased information readily available from Hollywood films and the media. It’s imperative to better inform ourselves and spread awareness about these far too often misunderstood animals. To stay up to date with ways in which you can help save the sharks, tune in for the end of Shark Week on Discovery Channel, or follow experts such as @oceanicramsey and @juansharks.
Sea’s the Day!