A recent diving trip to the Blue Planet Aquarium in Chester to engage in the reef tanks with the Sharks there first hand was a real eye opener. During the course of the day the group I was in learnt a lot about the ecosystems in which these sharks play a huge part, some just off of our own shores in the UK.
Many of us are aware that the reputation of sharks that we see portrayed in the media is a fallacy and they are not the relentless killing machines and man-eaters we make them out to be but rather graceful, elegant creatures that play a major part in the marine ecosystem that if pushed out of balance can have far reaching implications for us all. Sharks help to maintain the balance of life within our seas by keeping other marine animal populations in check. Most sharks focus solely on the weak and sick within the prey they hunt which helps to keep the populations of that species healthy and strong by removing possible disease outbreak and defective gene lines, many of which are the fish stocks we catch for commercial purposes that end up on our table for dinner.
The perception that sharks are almost invulnerable is almost a complete myth. Many sharks species are now on the endangered animals protection list as a growing demand for shark fin soup in Asia drives hunting of these creatures, this coupled with the fact many sharks are lost as bycatch during commercial fishing operations within protected areas means numbers of varying shark species are rapidly in decline.
As the dominant species of the planet, Human beings have the responsibility to maintain the balance that nature has struck and limit the interruption we pose to this balance. We are affecting the natural world in many different ways with this decrease in shark populations only the tip of the iceberg. This impact however could be rectified if we were able to get everyone on board and understand the consequences we are developing not only for ourselves but future generations and also all of the other wildlife species that are intrinsically linked to the positive things that sharks bring to the ecosystem. Spread the word, encourage research and let’s limit and repair the damage we are doing to our precious world.