We’ve come a long way since the horror-filled days of the 70s Jaws film that has promoted widespread fear about, not just great whites, but sharks of any kind. But thanks to new science, advocacy and media tools – conservationists are busting long-standing shark myths and securing much-needed protections for some of the world’s most vulnerable shark species.
5 Facts People Who Fear Sharks Should Know
- Sharks Predators or Preys? Think twice - Humans should be the ocean’s caretakers, and yet could actually be considered the real “monsters of the deep”. In too many places, we’re emptying the ocean of sharks. According to the results of the first-ever global study of extinction risk conducted by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, 25 percent of the world’s sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.
- There are 1000-plus known shark and ray species globally.
Some eat plankton, others love sea lions. Humans are not part of a shark’s natural diet but tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products. As many fisheries are unregulated, catches are significantly under-reported. Scalloped Hammerheads are classified by IUCN as Globally Endangered on the Red List, making them amongst the most threatened of all highly migratory sharks. While not out of the woods, White Sharks are amongst the world’s most protected sharks. Their closest cousins however, aren’t faring so well: wide-ranging mako sharks are heavily fished around the world without any international or even EU limits, while porbeagle sharks can still be landed in the US and Canada despite needing many decades to recover from overfishing.
- Fishing, trade, and market controls are lacking. Demand for shark fins is driving the wasteful practice of finning while interest in shark and ray meat is growing in many places. Largely uncontrolled fishing and bycatch are driving many shark and ray populations to the brink of collapse. It’s up to us to use our power as citizens and consumers. Urge your policymakers to promote shark and ray safeguards, and don’t open your wallet to shark and ray products unless you’re sure they’re sustainable.
- Diversity is key. There’s no single silver bullet for shark conservation. Different regions have different issues, resources, and approaches. It requires a strong portfolio of science-based and/or precautionary catch limits, effective shark finning bans, bycatch mitigation, area protections, trade measures, and consumer awareness at all levels – international, regional and local – to safeguard these diverse species. That said, even small steps can help. Donating to shark conservation goes a long way towards protecting the most vulnerable shark species.
- Respect your elders. In 2016, scientists estimated that Greenland sharks are incredibly long-lived, reaching sexual maturity at ~150 years of age and living 400 years or more. This finding and inferences about the species’ vulnerability led to widespread calls for conservation action. They were heavily fished in the first half of the 20th century for their liver oil. Today, they are taken primarily as incidental catch in a variety of fisheries, and also targeted by vessels from Greenland and Iceland to supply the demand for dried and fermented meat.
Divers are some of sharks and rays’ closest and most influential allies. Together, we are creating a powerful, collective voice to influence change. With your support, we’ve secured some amazing victories for our underwater friends. But we’re far from done. Join the movement and support shark saving strategies for the future.
Sharks need you. Don't fear sharks! Fear an ocean without them #HealthySharksHealthyOcean