The Truth About Sharks
Sharks are definitely known for having a bad rap. But even researchers say that sharks don’t deserve their terrible reputation. Thanks to stereotyping and exaggerated, vivid stories, sharks are instantly feared rather than admired and respected. According to general society, they are labeled as dangerous killers that eat anything in sight.
Sharks MUST be protected as they are a critical part of the marine environment, but this is hard when fishermen are constantly hunting them for their shark fins and meat. Thankfully, the government and protection agencies are now taking even more steps to preserve these beautiful and powerful mammals to be sure they are not overly caught.
However, we should take a step back and realize that sharks are most often the victims; not humans. Millions are killed annually by demand for their fins. This has led to overfishing and illegal fishing, which is decreasing shark populations all over the world.
So, I’m here to shatter the most common shark myths and misconceptions! Take a look below to learn more about these amazing, beautiful creatures.
Shark Myth #1: Sharks are all man-eaters and go after humans.
Fact: False, false and false! Humans are not food for sharks. A shark’s meal consists of seal, whale, fish, invertebrates, porpoise, and/or squid. Other sharks like basking sharks, whale sharks, and nurse sharks only eat plankton and are ‘filter and bottom-dwelling’ feeders. According to worldwildlife.org, “Contrary to public perception, sharks attack less than a hundred people a year on average. Often the attacks are accidental and are rarely fatal. In fact, more people are killed each year by dogs, lightning, and even falling soda machines than by shark attacks!”. Shark attacks involving humans are often caused by a shark hunting for similar-sized prey such as dolphins or seals. Attacks are also mistakes due to very poor water visibility or inquisitive bites. This is another reason why there are so many more bites than fatalities. Have you ever seen a surfer’s shadow from under water?? Also, excessive splashing will only attract the shark if there is one nearby because to them it sounds like a wounded, struggling fish. Sharks have very poor eye sight so their hunting is done from electrical signals/impulses.
Shark Myth #2: Sharks are not important.
Fact: Sharks play a vital role in marine communities and help keep them balanced and healthy. They keep marine animal populations in check and some sharks also feed on the sick and weak. Think of it as a huge rotation of the marine food chain and many species of sharks sit right at the top of it. Marine life would slowly go downhill if it wasn’t for sharks.
Shark Myth #3: All sharks can smell blood in the water from miles away.
Fact: Some sharks do have a highly developed sense of smell. This helps them hunt in the dark or murky water and detect their prey. Blood signals them that there is an injured fish, which makes an easy meal. Other sharks don’t depend on their sense of smell for finding food.
Shark Myth #4: Nothing can hurt sharks and they have no predators.
Fact: As many people don’t realize, shark populations around the entire world are in rapid decline. The growing demand for shark fins and the overfishing of sharks are having a huge effect on this. Sharks grow slowly and take many years to mature enough to produce young, which are only a few anyway. They are being caught way faster than they are born. Sharks are way too easily discarded! The greatest threat and predator to sharks are humans! Yes, us! Every year, millions and millions of sharks are caught and killed for their meat and fins. Humans are destroying and disrupting the ocean ecosystem by doing this.
Shark Myth #5: Shark fins grow back if they’re cut off.
Fact: A finned shark that is thrown overboard back into the ocean will drown, bleed to death and/or be eaten by other sharks.
Shark Myth #6: Sharks attack people often.
Fact: Shark attacks are very very rare. You are more likely to be struck by lightning, killed by a mosquito, or killed by a hippo, than attacked and killed by a shark. In 2012, there were only SEVEN shark-related fatalities. Compare that to about 70+ million sharks that are killed each year by humans!! Sharks are in ALL of the world’s oceans, it’s their home, and even though more and more people are going into the oceans each year, the incident rate has not increased for shark attacks. There are just three species responsible for the majority of all shark attacks: the tiger shark, bull shark, and the great white.
Shark Myth #7: Sharks are all the same.
Fact: Shark species are INCREDIBLY diverse. They come in all different sizes, shapes, habitats, diets and behaviors. They are all extremely unique in their own way. There are approximately 500 shark species currently known, but this number is always increasing since marine biologists are studying more and more parts of the ocean. Take a look at how different some sharks are compared to each other:
Shark Myth #8: Sharks only live in one area.
Fact: Sharks inhabit ALL of the world’s oceans. They can be found in coastal waters, inshore, the open deep sea, and even in freshwater rivers and lakes.
Shark Myth #9: Shark fins are nutritious and offer medicinal properties.
Fact: Shark fins have absolutely no flavor or nutritional value. From a sharks’ diet, they accumulate contaminants and pollutions from their prey, this even includes mercury.
Shark Myth #10: All sharks are voracious predators.
Fact: Basking sharks and whale sharks, the two largest species of sharks, are filter feeders that feed on fish eggs and other tiny organisms. Many shark species are actually very relaxed creatures.
Please take the time to watch these amazing videos on sharks and divers swimming with them!! The first video is beautiful to watch.
Shark Myth #11: There are too many sharks in the sea.
Fact: Surprising to many, there are actually a lot of shark species that are in fact endangered due to pollution and excessive fishing. The continued decrease in shark populations are greatly affecting the oceans’ ecosystems since sharks play a key role in keeping other fish populations in check and balanced.
**Disclaimer- This post is for informational purposes only. The sources for my information are listed below.