It is not easy to get sympathy for sharks these days, the media has constantly told us that sharks are evil, man-eating monsters and they have traditionally been portrayed as vicious killers in motion pictures. The news media has not been much better and coverage of shark attacks still sensationalize any attacks and never show sharks unless they are engaged in feeding or aggressive behaviors. In reality, of the 450 some species of sharks in the world today, only about a dozen are actually a threat to humans.
Seventy percent of Americans surveyed in 2003 believed that sharks are dangerous and that shark populations are too high. That same mentality continues and the public’s misconceptions about sharks perpetuate the continued over-exploitation and depletion of the species today. In order to dispel the negative image of sharks in the media it is critical to provide the public with accurate and scientific information and raise awareness of the conservation needs of sharks.
In just the last two decades some shark species have been depleted up to 80 percent. The fact that sharks grow slowly and have very few offspring makes them very vulnerable to over-fishing and other forms of human exploitation. Since sharks are the top predators in their niches they are a vital component of the ocean’s ecosystems and if they are fished to extinction it will have potential negative effects for all other organisms in the oceans.
You can get involved and make a difference in the survival of sharks simply by avoiding shark products. Consumer choices make a difference and by not eating shark and shark fin soup or buying shark products such as jaws, skins, teeth, cartilage pills or shark liver oil, you will make a contribution. You can also make responsible seafood choices and buy only ocean-friendly seafood to support fisheries that are healthier for ocean wildlife and the environment.
If you want to get more directly involved you can contact your local fisheries policy officials and ask them to ensure your state or county has an effective plan of action for shark conservation.