Gabby Lout
Gabby Lout

Jul 13. 3 mins

SHARK AWARENESS DAY: OUR FUTURE IS WITH SHARKS!

Happy Shark Awareness Day! Today, July 14th, is a day all about changing the negative perceptions about sharks to promote more conservation, education, and to bring light to the current threats shark populations are facing worldwide. Overexploitation, poor management, and fear are putting immense threats on their populations around the world. Now more than ever, they need our love.

Sharks are important to each of us for different reasons. Some of us are in complete awe of them, while some of us fear them. Some of us will spend hours underwater to witness just a moment of their magnificence. For some, they are the reason we fell in love with diving, or even committed our careers to their protection. No matter how sharks move you, one thing remains true…we need them.

So what are sharks really worth?…

We’ve all grown up hearing the rumors and myths about the blood hungry sharks lurking beneath us ready to attack. Instead, what we should have been discussing, is how unbelievably valuable sharks are to each of us and our entire planet! Sharks inhabit every ocean in the world. Some even dwell in bodies of freshwater.

The Greenland Shark, the second largest carnivorous shark on the planet, comes to St. Lawrence Estuary each year to feed and relax. They come to enjoy the finer things in life.

Not all sharks are predators and believe it or not, they ALL play a crucial part in
regulating and balancing ocean ecosystems. Sharks are a keystone species, with populations that have a disproportionately large effect on their environments and species around them.

Without sharks, ecosystems would dramatically change and potentially collapse. A world with sharks, means we’re doing pretty good, and our oceans are healthy…we are in balance. On the other hand, a world without sharks is what we should really fear. This world is already becoming a harsh reality and will continue to get worse if we continue business as usual.

Sharks have been on earth for more than 400 million years, and now, because of us, they are rapidly facing extinction. Today, one of the biggest threats to sharks populations is overfishing, specifically for their fins. Because they are slow growing and long-lived, they are especially susceptible to overfishing. Sharks are being overfished at rates faster than populations can recover. The demand for their fins keeps the shark killing industry alive. Fins from more than 70 million sharks circulate the global shark trade each year. While policy has noticed the value of sharks and made finning illegal in the United States, the industry continues to thrive.

While the ecological value of sharks has been well studied, until recently there were few studies that examined their value across industries and economies. There have been several studies done that illustrate a powerful message to encourage the protection of sharks. To divers, scientists, and ocean enthusiasts, a dollar amount could never match the magnificence and beauty behind these creatures’ strength and evolution. In coastal industries, divers and tourists travel from around the world to witness sharks in their natural habitat, to have that moment of awe and wonder.

Shark encounters and dives bring in over $220 million in Florida annually. Industries in the Bahamas generate $113 million, while Fiji and Maldives earn $38-40 million each year. Once a shark is dead and killed for its fins or sport fishing, it is worth less than $1 million annually.

Coastal communities depend on sharks, both economically and ecologically. Protecting sharks isn’t just good for the economy, but more importantly for the ocean. Our society has always and will continue to be directly tied to the ocean, and the abundance it offers us in so many ways. However you paint the picture, the value of sharks to our beautiful world is priceless. Protecting sharks is protecting our future.

It is time to get involved on Shark Awareness Day.
As individuals, we play a huge part in the protection of sharks. You don’t even need to be near the ocean to make a big impact. Starting today, these are some easy things you can do to help…

  • Educate yourself and learn about the amazing fun facts sharks have to offer.
  • Educate others and change the conversation on sharks from fear to admiration and respect. Talk to even just one person today about sharks. One conversation can make all the difference!
  • Get involved…There are so many amazing people bringing awareness to sharks and promoting their conservation through social media and outreach. The Nakawe Project, is a non-profit that aims to raise awareness about shark finning and illegal fishing activities. You can learn about the difference they are make and donate to their fight on our conservation page or their website.
  • Encourage government officials to create regulations to protect sharks and other endangered species.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover! Learn about sharks and all the positive things surrounding them.
  • Dive or snorkel with these beautiful animals. The more money that goes into sustainable shark tourism, the more people will realize the value of keeping sharks alive. You can see how truly beautiful and serene they are with our divers in Roatan here… https://www.internationaldivermag.com/videos/Roatansharkdive
  • Watch your favorite shark documentary and pass it on! Sharkwater is one of my favorites. Filmmaker, Rob Stewart, debunks shark stereotypes and negative media depictions, while focusing on the importance of sharks in the seas and the harsh reality they are facing. Follow the link here! https://sharkwater.com/sharkwater/

We can be the voice for sharks during a time when they need it most. We must strive to bring their beauty to the forefront, so those maybe fearful and skeptical will be inspired and more people will advocate for their protection.

So, how much is a shark worth to you? And a healthy ocean worth? Together we can change the negative perspectives about sharks. Together we can look into the future and see a world with sharks. They need love. So for #Sharkawarenessday, go ahead and show them some.

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