The 1975 thriller/horror film Jaws instilled a sense of terrifying fear in the hearts of many regarding sharks. And for good reason, right? Perhaps not. Believe it or not, sharks aren’t as scary as many people might think. In fact, there are a plethora of misconceptions surrounding the animal that have led to serious detriment for the shark population as a whole.
According to Ocean: Find Your Blue, sharks populations have rapidly declined in recent years. This is largely due to the widely held belief that sharks are the ocean’s top predator. That’s why we here at Animal Sake want to dispel some of the biggest myths surrounding sharks. But first, let’s discuss why declining shark populations are a cause for concern.
According to Census of Marine Life, humans have taken a top down approach to fishing. In other words, rather than allowing the ecosystem to fair naturally (i.e., large predators eat smaller ones and so on), we are killing off the largest predators first. This disrupts the natural food chain which can cause irreparable damage to our ecosystem.
“[Sharks] help remove the weak and the sick as well as keeping the balance with competitors helping to ensure species diversity,” says Oceana EU.
Sharks are Shy
Hollywood has made out sharks to be vicious killers, constantly on the hunt for their next innocent predator. However, this is not, in fact, the case. Rather, according to Nautilus Dive Adventures, on the rare chance that a human is attacked by a shark, it is more than likely because the swimmer moved in direct line of the shark. Because sharks cannot back up, “they lash out”.
Sharks are dumb
Nope! Once, again this myth about sharks is wildly untrue. Sharks are actually one of the most intelligent ocean creatures. As a result, they tend to avoid humans as much as possible. In truth, sharks, like many other animals that we know and love, are sociable and curious.
Shark Meat is Good for you
Shark fin has long been considered a delicacy, only deserving of the upper class, in certain cultures. Not only is it a status symbol, shark fin has been said to have medicinal properties. This is often used as justification for the hunting and killing of sharks.
Truth be told, shark fin is actually quite unhealthy for humans to consume. Shark fin contains high levels of mercury which, when consumed, can be toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems according to the World Health Organization.
With all of the above in mind, it would be a disservice not to mention the moral obligation that we as humans have to care for our oceans properly and to give all creatures an equal chance at life. As previously mentioned, sharks are intelligent, curious and vital for our planet’s ecosystem. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and protect these beautiful creatures so that we can continue to learn from them for generations to come.
To further protect the shark population, consider donating to or volunteering for various shark conservation groups like this one across the world.