Sharks Need the Limelight

Shark finning has gotten out of hand, leaving the shark population dwindling.

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These are the three steps to the cruel act of shark finning. The fishermen catch their prey in huge fishing nets, capturing both sharks and other unfortunate fish. They grab each shark, cutting off their fins and throwing the finn-less body back into the ocean. What the murderers don’t realize (and frankly don’t care about) is that the sharks are left to suffocate.

To breathe, sharks need to swim. They get their oxygen by pushing water through their gills, and since the fishermen have taken their fins for soup, they cannot swim.

The result? A slow, painful death at the bottom of the ocean floor.

An estimated 100 million sharks are butchered every year for their fins. This has caused shark species populations to decrease by 60 to 90 percent in the last 15 years. Yet, there seems to be little action from people to help.

The word ‘shark’ is infamous for its connotation. Your mind might wander to the famous 1975 film “Jaws,” or one of the more recent movies portraying a killer shark. What people don’t understand, however, is how far Hollywood is from the truth. According to National Geographic, on average, one person is killed by a shark every two years in the United States. In the year 2017 alone, 25 people in the U.S. were killed by dogs. What happened to being man’s best friend?

Sharks have poor eyesight, and if they see something shiny, such as a watch on someone’s wrist, they might think that it is a fish. Once they realize that it is not the desired food, they retreat. Sharks are not, in fact, purposely trying to make you their next meal.

I haven’t even mentioned the critical role sharks play in their natural ecosystem. For example, according to a study about the great white shark population conducted by the nonprofit organization Oceana in North Carolina, they found that when the population decreased, the ray population also increased greatly. The rays ate nearly all the scallops in the area, causing many local fisheries to close down due to the lack of income.

Although shark finning occurs mostly in foreign countries, there is still plenty of action we can take to help end the unnecessary killings of innocent sharks. New Jersey legislature recently tried to ban the sale of shark fins from their waters. Other organizations, such as Starbucks, are writing letters to big companies that have partnerships with institutions that sell products containing shark fins, urging them to cut their ties.

Without sharks, not only will the ecosystem suffer, but our economy will too. Ecotourism, which is tourism directed towards exotic environments, can bring in millions of dollars from all around the world. Snorkeling or diving with sharks is a huge attraction, and without sharks, all of these companies will close down. Such actions can trigger a domino effect. The diving company goes down, regions that depend on those companies lose ecotourism income and other businesses in the area shut down due to a lack of customers.

As a global community, we cannot afford to lose sharks. The world is going through some tough times, but we cannot forget about our ecosystem. We need to treat sharks as friends, not food.

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