I am terrified of sharks…and if you were a teenager in the 1970’s and saw the movie “Jaws”, you would be too.
I nearly fell out of the theater chair during a nighttime scene in the movie, when that (already dead) man popped out of the boat. If you have seen the movie “Jaws”, you know exactly which scene it is.
After that, I did not care much about what happened to sharks. Less sharks lurking in the waters was a good thing, as far as I was concerned.
But that was the naïve teenager, and younger version of me. Being older now, I know that sharks play an important role in the ocean’s ecosystem, and that these days, there are alarmingly less sharks swimming in our oceans.
In fact, 50 shark species are listed by the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as “threatened”.
There are 3 stages within the “threatened” category:
- Critically Endangered
Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species, and it means that a species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations.
So while the teenager version of me would have looked at this photo with a combination of fear, approval, and morbid relief (like…that is one less shark to worry about!), the current, almost 50-year-old version of me is saddened, especially knowing that shark populations are crashing, and that each year, tens of millions of sharks are caught and killed just for their fins.
This shark was tagged off Ano Nuevo Island (county of Santa Cruz, California) in the 1990’s and caught by accident last week in the Sea of Cortez, Baja area of Mexico.
It was estimated to weigh 4,000 pounds and was 20 feet long.
White sharks are protected in Mexico, so accidental catches are forgiven, according to an article by Stephen Baxter, Santa Cruz Sentinel. Click here to read the article.
Oceana.org – Sharks Overview
Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years. While they have survived mass extinction events, sharks have not evolved to withstand overexploitation by humans.
…Of the 307 shark species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 50 are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, but only the white, whale and basking sharks are protected internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
As apex predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems, serving as an indicator of ocean health. Despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived and give birth to few young, making them extremely vulnerable to over exploitation. More…
Florida Museum of Natural History – Biological Profile, White Shark
The white shark, also known as “great white”, and “white pointer”, is believed to have received its name from the appearance of dead specimens lying on deck, ventral side up with stark white underbelly revealed. Other common English language names are man eater, shark, and white death. Common names in other languages include anequim (Portuguese), devorador de hombres (Spanish), grand requin blanc (French), hohojirozame (Japanese), hvithai (Norwegian), jaquentón blanco (Spanish), kalb bahr (Arabic), kelb il – bahar abjad (Maltese), manzo de mar (Italian), menschenhai (German), niuhi (Hawaiian), peshkagen njeringrenes (Albanian), rechin mancator de oameni (Rumanian), requin blanc (French), sbrillias (Greek), squalo bianco (Italian), tiburón blanco (Spanish), valkohai (Finnish), vithaj (Swedish), weißer hai (German), witdoodshaai (Afrikaans), and zarlacz ludojad (Polish).
The white shark is a macropredator, known to be active during the daytime. Its most important prey items are marine mammals (including, seals, sea lions, elephant seals, dolphins) and fishes (including other sharks and rays)…More
Pelagic.org – The Pelagic Shark Research Foundation
The word ‘Pelagic’ is an ancient Greek word for the open ocean, high seas, offshore environment, of which most of the Earth’s surface is comprised. The word is presently used by scientists when describing the Earth’s vast regions of open sea and the creatures that inhabit those regions.
…Because sharks have been so efficient as predators and foragers they are a phenomenally successful group of animals that have gotten away with such low reproductive rates; however, the introduction of modern fishing methods and industrial fallout have been devastating to shark populations world-wide.
Shark populations are slow to recover from over-harvesting and several U.S. species are considered threatened or endangered with regional extinction.
Virtually all historic commercial shark fisheries in the U.S. and abroad have ended in the population crash of the species of shark being targeted. Historically, commercial shark fisheries have exhibited a boom/bust cycle of over-harvest and decline where the fishery invariably ends with an abrupt and resounding crash. More…