For the love of sharks!
The purpose of Shark Awareness Day is to highlight the importance of these misunderstood creatures of the deep. To most sharks are associated with fear which has resulted in their bad reputation for being the ‘villain’. In reality, sharks are remarkable fish which play an important role in the ecosystem in which they live, an ecosystem that would collapse without them.
So why are sharks important?
Sharks help keep the delicate balance of our oceans to ensure they remain healthy. They are top predators and keep other populations in control, preventing them from becoming too large. Sharks also maintain the health of other species populations in the sea as they predate on weak individuals like the sick and old.
- Worldwide there are over 470 species of sharks with the smallest being the Dwarf Lantern shark (only growing to 20 cm.) and the largest the Whale shark (growing up to 18 m.).
- Unlike most fish which have a swim bladder to assist with buoyancy, sharks instead have a large oily liver to help keep them afloat. Sharks have what we call dermal denticles (instead of scales) which cover their entire body. These denticles face backward which streamline the shark and is why the skin of the shark feels like sandpaper when you stroke it.
They have between five and seven rows of teeth which are not embedded into the jawbone. As the front row of teeth wear down and fall out, they are replaced with stronger teeth from the next row.
Threats to sharks
According to the IUCN red data species list, approximately a quarter of the world's shark species are threatened. The largest threats are overfishing for commercial use (shark fin soup, shark skin, shark meat), habitat loss due to coastal development and as bycatch from the commercial fishing industry.
How can you help?
- Follow the SASSI list when buying/ordering seafood.
- Follow the fishing regulations – they are there for a reason.
- Support organisations that practice ethical tourism.
- Keep our shores clean, switch to single use plastics, reuse and recycle where you can.
- Spread the word and educate people on the importance of sharks.