Sharks

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By Rox Peña

E-ssue

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I WAS a grade schooler when the horror/thriller film “Jaws” was shown. The film is about a giant man-eating shark. I was not able to watch the movie though. Back then, going to cinemas was a luxury. What I remember however is that the film made sharks much-feared creatures.

To this day, the fear of sharks remains, especially when we would hear of stories about shark attacks. Only last February, a man was killed by sharks in New Zealand. Last year, an Australian surfer was also attacked and killed by sharks.

While it’s true that sharks are capable of killing humans, shark attacks are rare. According to Wikipedia, shark experts consider that the danger presented by sharks has been exaggerated. Sharks only follow their instincts like other animals. Humans are not on the sharks menu. Like other wild animals, they attack when provoked.

The truth is it’s us humans that should be feared by sharks. We are hunting them to extinction. According to a report posted in the Environmental News Network, it is estimated that the annual number of sharks killed by commercial fishing is around 100 million. Researchers are warning that sharks are in need of better protection.

Commercial shark fishing is driven mainly by high demand for shark fin soup which is considered to be a delicacy in Asia. Sharks are often “finned,” which means their fins are removed, and the dead carcasses discarded at sea. However, they are also killed for sale of their meat, liver oil, cartilage and other body parts.

Sharks are important to the environment. They play a key role in the ocean’s ecosystem. Sharks keep the population of marine animals balanced. According to the Shark Savers website, (https://www.sharksavers.org/), sharks tend to eat very efficiently, going after the old, sick, or slower fish in a population that they prey upon, keeping that population healthier.

The ocean ecosystem is made up of very intricate food webs and sharks are at the top of these webs. Removing them causes the whole structure to collapse. A number of scientific studies demonstrate that the depletion of sharks results in the loss of commercially important fish and shellfish species down the food chain, including key fisheries such as tuna that maintain the health of coral reefs.

The “terror” image of sharks is actually good for the sea environment. Through intimidation, sharks regulate the behavior of prey species, and prevent them from overgrazing vital habitats. For example, scientists in Hawaii found that tiger sharks had a positive impact on the health of sea grass beds. Turtles, which are the tiger sharks’ prey, graze on sea grass.

In the absence of tiger sharks, the turtles spent all of their time grazing on the best quality, most nutritious sea grass, and these habitats were soon destroyed. When tiger sharks are in the area, however, turtles graze over a broader area and do not overgraze one region.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on March 08, 2013.

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