When you hear the word shark what comes to mind?
In the past, they’ve had a stigma to be labeled as sharp-toothed, aggressive, angry predators. Scientists are working to reverse the sharks’ reputation and educate people on just how important they are to our ecosystem.
We shouldn’t fear sharks but instead, appreciate this fascinating creature.
“Jaws was the worst thing that ever happened to sharks,” said Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute Executive Director Dr. Quinton White. “It personified them as a man-eating, hungry machine and that really isn’t the case.”
While images of a terrorizing shark may be engrained in some of your heads, Dr. White is doing all he can to erase the stigma.
“People don’t always realize the sharks are always there,” White added. “It’s really a rare event when we get a shark bite and rarely ever do we ever get a true shark attack.”
Sharks do not hunt humans. They are under constant attack from man.
We pollute their home. We hunt them for their fins.
More than half of open ocean sharks are considered to be “threatened” with extinction, according to a Stanford University study. Open ocean sharks are also called pelagic sharks. They include the largest of all fish and, in many cases, are the apex of their food chain. These predators live out in open waters, such as the Great white shark, the Blue shark, or the Longfin and Shortfin mako.
The ripple affects the entire ecosystem.
“If you begin to understand how the predator-prey relationship works,” White explained, “When you take away the top predator it means the fish underneath them expand and that then eats the fish below them and that has an impact below that.”
White added, “The world is 71% water and it’s a critical part of our overall ecology. The air we breathe comes from the ocean and so it’s important we maintain the health of the ocean.”
But how do you get people to care about a world they cannot see? One way Dr. White promotes is education and interaction with the environment.
“The internet is a huge resource, but be careful what you’re reading that it comes from a reputable source. There are also a ton of great books and you can follow the shark tracker online,” commented White.
Next time you visit the beach, just remember we’re in the sharks’ home. They are not out to get you.
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