Hello this is a subject that I care passionately about! Like you, probably, I had a fear of sharks. Having dived in various locations in the Red Sea I
decided to try the Carribean instead. I booked a holiday to dive in the Bahamas and went out of my way to face my fears over the sharks. There are 350
elasmobranch shark species (not including the 500 skates and rays that are included in the genius). Only five shark types have been confirmed to have
attacked mankind. Possibly it might be ten species but that is not confirmed. The confirmed attacks are by the Great White; Oceanic White Tip; Bronze
Whaler; Tiger and Bull sharks. These attacks are very very rare. Put into contect, they account for only five fatalities globally each year. You are
more likely to be struck by lightening or die from a bee sting than be attacked by a shark!
It is strongly suspected that shark attacks occur through misidentification. That is a very important point that I want to get across. The sharks
think they are attacking fish (flashing divers knives in the murk) or seals at the surface (the sillouette of surf-boarders). Clearly this is not the
sharks having an intent on taking human prey. There are preventitive measures that people can take to avoid misidentification. Don't go in the water
at known feeding sites or times (dusk / dawn); don't go in the water when visibility is low; don't dive with cuts to the skin.
The total number of non-fatal attacks on humans is about fifty / sixty per annum. More people are attacked by wild tigers, in Indian National Parks,
but nobody goes out of their way to shoot these cats and persecute them. If they did there would be an international outcry. Sadly humanity kills over
100 million sharks each year. Many sharks are heading towards extinction and have already done so at specific localities already. The Hanmmerhead is
now hardly seen in the Galapogas Islands - a former stronghold. The two largest shark in the World - the Whale Shark (sixty feet long) and the second
largest, the Basking Shark (thirty feet), are both in danger of extinction through shark finning. A Whale Shark Fin can fetch up to $10,000 dollars in
Hong Kong. Both the Whale and Basking Sharks are vegetarian and eat only plankton. No danger to man. When smaller sharks have been taken out of the
water they have their fins cut-off and salted. The animal is then thrown back into the water to die a slow and painful death. Wanton waste and
cruelty!! Only 4% of the shark's body mass (the fins) are retained for sale. The rest is discarded - the part that is still living and thrrashing
about in the sea in agony. let's be claer about this - eating Shark-Fin Soup is immoral.
When I arrived in Nassua in 1999 - to attend Stuart Cove's Dive School - I was ignorant of all these facts that I have shared with you today. Stuart
Cove diving operation offer the opportunity, to divers, to encounter the Carribean Reef Shark. I was apprehensive, at first, but soon grew accustomed
to the shark presence. Fear turned into acceptance and then wonder and awe for these beautiful creatures. The sharks were curious but not aggressive.
I learnt from the Dive School that the sharks are a vital part of the living oceans. Sharks maintain the health of other fish species by taking out
sick or weak individuals. This is very important for the genetic health of the fish shoals. Sharks are apex "keystone" predators at the top of the
in the Living Web Pyramid. If sharks dissapear off the reef then eventually so do other fish species, who initially go through a population boom, but
then die out themselves by mass starvation. The things the reef fish themselves predate are also cleared out . The shark is a vital component to a
Reef's Ecology. An essentail "check and balance" to the Reef's state of health. Unfortunately sharks tend to reach sexual maturity only after a
number of years - eight for the Tiger and thirteen for the Basking Shark. When they do have pups these might only be two, three or four every second
or third year. Once a local shark population have been decimated it might take three or four generations to recover. Maybe they never recover! We do
not know for sure.
The sharks species are diverse, clever and sophisticated life-forms. They possess eyesight that is ten times more efficent than a human's. Sharks
have a sense of smell that can detect a drop of blood in an olympic size pool. Also they have an additional sixth sense through the detection of
electromagnetic discharge - the heartbeats made by other animals. They sense these electro discharges through special sensors on the snout called the
ampullae of lorenzini. This enables the shark to hunt in near zero visibility and navigate the oceans. Some scientists believe that they pick up the
magnetic polarity of the earth to navigate vast distances. In the case of the Blue Shark that travels completly around the north Atlantic Ocean in
three months - a distance of 4,000 miles!! This was only found out recently. There is still alot we do not understand or know about the sharks and
their vital role to maintain Living Oceans.
Is it too late to save the Shark? After Nassua I decided to join the Shark Trust. I give Shark Conservation Talks to educate people about the massive
destruction now being visited on our Oceans. Can people help to stop the destruction? Here is how you can help:-
Please take time to read more about this facinating animal and share in its preservation. Lobby to stop shark finning, which as a fishing practice, is
non-sustainable and cruel. Thankyou.