5 “Jaws” Shark Myths Proved False
by Gabbie Baillargeon
How many times have you been in , or even near, the ocean and thought about the chances that sharks were lurking under the water? My guess – a lot. It is only natural, for the media has sensationalized and stereotyped all sharks as man eating beasts, whose soulless being strives to prey and feast on humans. Ever since the movie Jaws came out in the summer of 1975, society as a whole has acted out of fear; and as a result further demonized sharks as a whole. As it turns out, dead sharks are deadlier than live ones. Shark served in restaurants are a much greater threat to your health, due to high levels of deadly chemicals. Millions of sharks are killed every year, for their fins alone in order to make shark fin soup, which is served as a symbol of status throughout Asian cultures. And yet as their lifeless body floats down towards the deep sea, no one is stopping the exploitation and over fishing of sharks. Under all the myths and fears about sharks, I am here to prove that these guys are much less frightening creatures than their reputation deems them. Here are 5 shark myths unraveled:
5. All Sharks Are Man Eaters
This is false. Take the whale shark, it is a filter feed (similar to whales, hence the name). A lot of sharks do not even have the capabilities of biting humans; for example, zebra sharks have a flat jaw that does not allow it to open its mouth wider than 4 inches. Over 400 known sharks exist, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. In fact Human’s are shark eaters. Sharks are a greater threat to us out of the water, because the meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury and plastic. Plastics, pollutants, and mercury accumulates as the potency multiplies at each higher level of the food chain. Each year, 73 million sharks are killed to harvest fins which do not contribute to the taste of the soup, it only serves to uphold ancient traditions.
4. By Culling Sharks Our Chance of Attacks Decrease
It is not that simple. A cull is when it is legalized and encouraged to go out and slaughter specific species, that officials believe pose a threat to society. Usually, the larger species who are responsible for prior attacks are targeted during culls. Recently Western Australia had a cull, targeting Great Whites and Tigers (mainly). This was due to an increased number of shark attacks in WA, however there is NO scientific proof that culling is an effective preventative measure. There is evidence that the more people that share the ocean with sharks, the more attacks there will be. Since WA is the fastest growing state in Australia, it only follows that the attacks will increase. Culling sharks does more harm than good because it hurts both the ocean and the economy – both of which Humans are deeply reliant upon. Eco-tourism will contribute less to the economy, as shark encounters decrease. Ecologically, Sharks are the keystone of the reef and healthy oceans at large; no sharks, no ecosystem. It’s that simple.
3. Sharks Aren’t Important, Right?
Wrong. Ecosystems survive and thrive because they are under a system of checks and balances, which is dictated by the food chain. Sharks, large or small, play a key role in keeping ocean ecosystems properly in balance. The larger shark species, such as Great Whites, are at the very top of the ocean ecosystem, functioning as a keystone species (one that is the cornerstone for the entire ecosystem). For example, the Great White keeps seal populations in check. What if the sharks disappeared? Pinniped populations would boom and in turn eat more than their share of fish. This directly impacts us because the fisherman now have less fish available to capture and sell in the market. This is just one small impact that the continual loss of sharks would have. Without sharks, the ocean fails to exist as we know it.
2. Humans Are On the Menu
Scientists have proved time and time again that sharks do not habitually prey on humans. Most shark attacks take place because they are provoked. Provoking a shark includes: fishing, splashing, surfing, swimming, and attempting to grab/touch them. Sharks have poor eyesight, so they rely on identifying shapes to determine prey; in addition to using their other senses. Also shark’s have taste buds in the back of their throat, so unfortunately this may lead to a “test bite”. However, we are useless to sharks, as most people have a much lower caloric value than a seal does. It just happens that when in the water, we can resemble seals. Here’s a statistic for you: You are more likely to die by being attacked by a dog than a shark. In 2012 alone, there were 38 fatal dog attacks and only one fatal shark attack.
1. Sharks Don’t Matter to Me
False. Humans and Nature have always crossed paths, and will forever be intertwined. The natural and material world are dependent upon each other, without the wild kingdom civilization cannot exist. It is inevitable that Humans will always value themselves as above the environment; however,it is meant to be shared, not consumed by Human greed and hubris. Sharks regulate our oceans, which directly impacts the economy (through seafood and eco-tourism), the health of reefs, and even weather patterns. If we desire to keep the oceans healthy along with ourselves then as a society we must confront and overcome the false stereotype that has grown out of media sensationalizing the facts. These are truly amazing animals, but like all misunderstood heroes, need help showing the world the good they possess.