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Definition… Shark: n.
“Primarily marine carnivorous fishes of the class Chondrichthyes (subclass Elasmobranchii), ranging from < 10 inches to > 40 feet in length, with five to seven gill openings, large oil-filled livers, a cartilaginous skeleton and dermal denticles serving to protect the skin and improve fluid dynamics.”
Sharks have evolved for over 400 million years, even surviving some of the earth’s greatest mass extinctions. They are superbly adapted to their environment, showing remarkable diversity and variation in physical appearances as well as behaviour. They are intelligent and inquisitive with unique physiology including additional senses, and a unique immune system. They inhabit every ocean on the planet and yet despite this, they are under an ever increasing pressure challenging their ability to survive. WHY?
No 1 Predator – Shark or Human?
The commercial practice of shark finning, the incidental capture by fisheries targeting other species (sharks as by-catch), the recreational fishery (shark trophy hunters), the demand for sharks products such as shark liver oil (added to cosmetics and healthcare products) and shark cartilage (touted as a cure for cancer) and the destruction of the aquatic environment. All of these factors are contributing to the rapid decline of shark populations, with an estimated 100 million sharks being killed each year. As most shark species grow slowly, mature late and only give birth to relatively few pups, the population simply cannot sustain such intense fishing pressure, resulting in many species numbers being severely depleted, which in turn recover very slowly if at all. Many of these practices are derived from a fundamental misunderstanding of sharks combined with a lack of knowledge.
Education Is the Answer
The only way to save these animals from ourselves is education. By understanding something, fears can disappear and are often replaced with appreciation, respect and compassion. When I see a shark in the wild I am captivated – the way they move through the water, their size, their colour, and their all seeing gaze. It is a rare and addictive sensation and an energy that drives me. I hope to bring about a better informed understanding of sharks, by sharing my experiences of these amazing creatures. This will I hope enthuse and inspire people to learn more about sharks and ultimately help protect and preserve these incredible animals.