“Are there any sharks in this ocean?” This is the question that always comes up while I am interning on the boat. And the answer is always yes. Sharks live everywhere in the ocean. Shallow waters, deep waters, some big, some small, some with really sharp teeth, and others with none at all. But why do we receive this question so often? Is it the fear and/or excitement of knowing that there are sharks in the ocean? Many times I have heard people say that they are so afraid of sharks and that some even stay out of the waters because of them. The main reason for this fear is from a film named “Jaws”. I am sure everyone has heard of this film. Ever since it was released the stereotype on sharks being horrifying man eating creatures has arisen. Truth is, humans are not on their menu. Sharks eat fish, sting rays, seals and may munch on dead whales or dolphins, some also eat plankton. Most attacks on humans come from juvenile sharks. The mothers do not stay with their young, once they give birth these shark pups are left to fend for themselves. Young sharks, such as Great Whites, eat small fish and rays and then practice their attack skills on birds until they test these skills on seals. Once the young great whites build up the fat, they then need to eat more and that’s when these sharks cause accidental attacks on humans. Usually after the first bite they realize it wasn’t what they were looking for and move on. You are more likely to die from a vending machine than a shark attack. And in those unlikely situations when a person does die from a shark attack, it is caused by loss of blood, not the shark actually “eating” you.
Sharks are the most important creature in the ocean. They are the top of the food chain and without them the food chain would be all messed up and eventually the ocean would be left with nothing, which then would affect organisms that live on land, including us. They also need our help! More than 100 million sharks are killed every year just for their fins to use as a fin soup which is a delicacy in China and Japan. Once these sharks are caught their fins are chopped off, alive, and then thrown back into the ocean while they are alive, to essentially drown. Not to mention that shark meat is very high in mercury and too much of it can harm humans.
So, sharks may seem like man eating monsters, some may look a little scary as well, they aren’t looking to eat us. In fact, 4 out of the 400 different types of species that are out there really pose any threat to humans. Don’t be afraid to go into the ocean because of sharks, it is really unlikely that you will even see one if you are just swimming in the ocean by shore. Sharks have more to fear on us then we do on them.
If you are interested in learning a little more on sharks and how you can save them, click this link.
-Sydney Pfeil, Intern at Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center, Rowan University