Sharks are an amazing creature, essential to the survival of our oceans, yet they get such bad press and are constantly demonized by the media (thanks, Jaws). As a result, sharks are hunted to the point where some species are nearly extinct.
If the extinction of even one major shark group occurs, we are in major trouble and it will have catastrophic consequences for our oceanic ecosystems.
Sharks have inhabited the ocean for 400 million years. They are distinguished by having cartilage instead of bones to form its skeleton. They have 5 to 7 gills slits located on both sides of their bodies. They come in all shapes and sizes from monsters the size of a small bus to tiny reef shark which you could pick up in your arms.
They possess multiple rows of teeth that enable them to eat almost anything in the ocean. Sharks also have the ability to camouflage in the water and as their color can blend in may it hide, move and hunt in the shallowest part of the ocean or the deepest. This is how most of the (vanishingly rare) attacks on humans occur.
Sharks are scattered all over the oceans around the world and can adapt to almost any oceanic environment.
There are 465 species of sharks which are classified into 8 different orders.
Some of the best-known species of sharks are:
Angel Sharks, which are not your usual sharks. They are usually mistaken as other type of sea creatures, mostly as stingrays. This type of shark are not meat eaters but eats mollusks and clams. Their color helps it blend in the sand so they stay at the bottom part of the ocean to go unnoticed.
Hammerhead Sharks, which have hammer-shaped heads, hence the name. They are another type of shark which are considered unique. People get scared of them due to their appearance but little do we know out of 9 hammerhead species only 3 of them can be dangerous. They have highly developed sense of smell and they hunt for prey aggressively.
Reef Sharks like to be alone and doesn’t interact to fellow sharks always unless it’s breeding time. They can adapt anywhere. Reef sharks have very precise features which makes them easier to recognize them: gray color on top, all white or streaks of white underneath and black on the tip of their fins. They can grow up to 6 feet long but most are smaller.
Blue Sharks are considered as the fastest among all sharks. They can grow up to 12 feet long. This type of shark are very picky eaters and don’t often feed. People need to be careful of blue sharks though as they are known as one of the most dangerous of all sharks and attacks people. Due to their size and strength, anything this shark sets its sights on as prey is finished.
Great White Sharks, which are the best-known of all types of shark and is known as the most dangerous shark in the entire world. Great whites sharks can grow up to 16 feet long and can weigh around 1,500 – 2,400 pounds. While they generally are docile unless hungry or provoked, it’s advisable to stay away from areas where they have been reported/seen.
Yet despite being such awesome creatures at the very top of the chain, man is putting immense pressure on sharks and driving them to the breaking point.
Shark finning is one of these threats where sharks are being hunted and their fins removed for sale, and the sharks are thrown back into the water where they are left to die.
Thankfully, awareness of this is growing and delicacies like shark fin soup are being boycotted by some high profile people, but it isn’t happening anywhere near fast enough.
More sharks are killed by humans than humans killed by sharks, yet we continue to see them as the predator.
This has to change. If our mother ocean is to survive and thrive, sharks will have just as vital a role in her future as they have in her past. The ocean can’t survive without sharks. Change needs to happen FAST.