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Out of sight out of mind

Sea Shepherd Julie Andersen swims with tiger shark. Photo: Eric Cheng, echeng.comSea Shepherd Julie Andersen swims with tiger shark. Photo: Eric Cheng,

Most people are surprised to learn that many shark species are almost extinct and nearly all are headed for disaster. But, you can’t stop something so terrible from happening if you don’t know about it and don’t know why you should care.

Many don’t know about this issue, because it happens so far away. Out in the oceans, off the coasts of countries few of us will ever journey to, for reasons that are foreign to many of us. Far from our eyes and far from governmental protection – at seas too broad or expensive to patrol. If we think about it at all, we assume that sharks are protected in marine reserves or that it is some other country’s problem. Many of us may even live in countries in which certain types of shark fishing is illegal – though most likely it is still occurring right under our noses. In fact, the US and many countries in the EU are responsible for killing more sharks than most other countries in the world. MORE 

A cruel demise

Maybe if we realized how brutal it is to fin a shark, we might also care a bit more. Tragically, sharks are often dragged onto fishing boats while still alive, where a knife with a hot blade is used to slice off all of the shark’s fins. Then, still desperately struggling for its life, the shark is thrown back into the ocean to bleed to death or drown.

Fear-driven apathy

Often blinded by misguided fears, once people know the fate facing sharks, many throw up their hands and wonder why they should even care, already convinced that the only good shark is a dead shark after watching movies like JAWS and TV shows on Shark Week. Hasn't the media taught us that sharks are bloodthirsty, indiscriminate monsters with an insatiable hunger for human flesh? Should we really care if they disappear? Wouldn’t the world just be a better place? MORE

Our future linked with the sharks

Julie Andersen with dead raggedtooth shark caught in net. Photo: Paul Wildman, builtbywildman.comJulie Andersen with dead raggedtooth shark caught in net. Photo: Paul Wildman,

If only we realized that sharks keep our largest and most important ecosystems healthy – ecosystems that provides us with much of the air we breath and food we eat – we might realize that our existence, in part, is dependent on theirs. Sharks have sat atop the oceans’ food chain, keeping our seas balanced, for approximately 450 million years. Without them, the oceans could – and likely will – topple. And it’s the ultimate climate change issue because the oceans control our planet’s temperature and weather and remove more than half of the carbon dioxide on this planet (global warming gas.) Do we really want to mess with that? MORE

Warning: contains poison

Maybe if we knew that while we collectively enjoy our shark steaks, shark fin soup, or shark cartilage supplements, instead of being healthy, we are actually poisoning ourselves, we might stop endlessly creating demand for these products. The truth is that shark flesh contains levels of methyl-mercury so high, a single shark steak can cause mercury poisoning – leading to sterility, nervous system issues, and birth defects for those who consume it. MORE

Not just about the soup

Shark fins being prepared in Hong Kong restaurant. Photo: Paul Wildman, builtbywildman.comShark fins being prepared in Hong Kong restaurant. Photo: Paul Wildman,

Many assume that because they don’t eat shark fin soup, they can’t possibly be contributing to the demise of sharks. Sadly, while shark fin soup does account for a considerable amount of shark consumption, there are many other culprits. It isn’t just something that can be blamed on a single culture or country. And, it isn’t just about the sharks. Rays (close family members of the sharks) fall victim as well. Most likely, the health food store, pet supply store, beauty salon, grocery store and/or local restaurant in your town are selling shark or ray products right under your nose. Certain energy drinks, pet supplements and chew toys, vitamins, lotions, vaccines, and even lipsticks – to name but a few – are all known to contain them. And other things you choose to buy, eat, and do may impact sharks as well. MORE

That’s why we all need to join and support Sea Shepherd, Operation Requiem and our fight to protect sharks.