Take a moment to visualize something. A shark. A great white shark, swimming through an otherwise empty ocean. Now insert yourself into the equation. You are there, in the big, deep ocean, swimming with the shark. The rest is up to you. What do you think will happen? Will the shark swim at you savagely and tear you limb from limb? Will you scream in fear as you frantically try to swim away? Or are you calm, staying buoyant in the water as you look into the creature’s eyes and a certain understanding passes between the both of you?
Think about your version of this situation, what you think will happen to you. And keep that in your mind.
Sharks have been the subject of so many people's fears and nightmares, so many horror movies including one of the most famous movies of all time, Jaws (which, by the way, you haven’t lived if you haven’t seen). But are these conceptions accurate? Have you ever stopped to think that maybe these dramatizations (for lack of a better term) are not actually how sharks act?
The Public Eye
To research further the general views of the public, I had many individuals participate in a survey to collect a basic idea of what shark mentality is like, and, quite frankly, was pleasantly surprised by the results: the majority of people who participated in the survey (67.7%) said they either liked or loved sharks. Additionally, even more of the people surveyed (a solid 93.9%) claimed they thought that sharks should be saved and that they were important to their ecosystems (which, by the way, is true).
Moving on, about half (44%) of the people surveyed tended to gravitate towards higher fear of sharks. Although, a solid 4 out of 34 people claimed they had no fear of sharks whatsoever. When asked, for those who were afraid of sharks, why they were afraid, the highest bar was on that of movies or media. Secondly, many said that they did not know why they were afraid, and after that many people had been taught that they were evil.
This proves that media, movies, and their portrayals do have a huge effect on people and their shark mentalities. And while many people are not afraid of sharks, there are still those who have been affected by movies and those around them. At this point (based on the many people who said they did not know why they feared sharks), sharks being scary is part of false common knowledge. That is not to say it is anyone’s fault if they have this fear.
However, it is the fault of the society that has drilled into its own the falsehoods that say sharks are man-eaters, mindless killers, and nothing but bloodthirsty carnivores. These things are simply not true.
The Truth Behind the Lies
The fact is, the society that decided to turn these lies into an induced false reality is the same society that doesn’t want you to know the truth about their actions. Shark culling (which I will explain later on), shark finning, and just the killing of sharks in general is going on every single day, with more than one shark killed per second.
So, by making movies that villainize sharks, whether they’re as good as Jaws or as terrible as 47 Meters Down, society is causing irrational fears in people that are allowing them to look past the truth in the killing of sharks. Or, rather, have no interest in researching it. These fears and these beliefs have been so ingrained in our society that sharks being evil has been taught to children, some children who will grow up and never swim in the ocean because of a fear that is based on fiction.
And I’m not trying to say that we should stop making shark movies. They are entertaining and even a part of media culture. But they’ve become the stereotype for all sharks, and their behaviors in these movies have become the expected behaviors of all sharks everywhere.
So, something simple, like adding a disclaimer at the beginning of the film saying that events are purely based on fiction (unless they aren’t) would make all the difference. So many people, seeing this disclaimer, would go into the film knowing none of the things that happen in it are real and walk out of the theater without having gained any irrational fears (of course, shark movies based in reality are a completely different and rare story, though, because of how uncommon these stories are, should still not cause fears).
In truth, sharks do not eat people purposefully. According to the National Ocean Service (and, well, common knowledge), humans are NOT PART OF THEIR NORMAL DIET. So, unless they are provoked or confused, there is no real reason to fear them if you’re a human. They eat fish and invertebrates, neither of which are categories people fall into. The only two reasons that a shark will attack a person are because they either mistake it for a part of their natural diet or try to investigate this strange, ugly creature invading its territory and causing a scene.
Some of you while reading an article such as this one will be shocked beyond words, having been completely unaware of the truth behind actual shark behavior. And this is under no circumstances your fault. This is what we need to get past, though. You were never taught about this in school, never heard of it on the internet, and that is what we need to stop. Or, well, start.
The more we tell people these things, the harder we work to get rid of these fears, the more people will be willing to help in any effort to save endangered sharks. So please, send this article to a friend, tell your uncle the truth about sharks, or send a donation site to your grandma. Anything and everything helps.
The Dangers and Inhumaneness of Shark Finning and Culling
Another thing that is hardly talked about enough regarding sharks is the fact that they play a major role in the ecosystems in which they reside. Most shark species are at the top of the food chain, and therefore keep the populations beneath them under control. Because of how rarely they give birth, they do not overpopulate, and with sharks, there is a balance.
The necessity of sharks in their habitats and ecosystems is covered in the video “Endangered Ocean: Sharks,” as well as the efforts many places are putting in to stop shark finning and killing. If there were not enough sharks in a certain ecological community, the whole system would fall apart. According to an article by Oceana, the sharks in a certain ecosystem not only keep the species they consume in check, but they also in turn affect the habits of plant life like coral reefs and seagrass. Sharks are keeping everything together. They even affect the economy! If sharks went away, the fish we eat would be eaten by the populations of animals sharks wouldn’t be alive to control.
Even aside from the necessities of sharks in their ecosystems, there are still plenty of other reasons shark killing should be illegal everywhere.
Trigger warning: gore, death
The process of shark finning goes as follows: when shark fishing, the murderers--ahem, I mean fishermen--bring the sharks aboard and saw off their fins while the creatures are still alive, writhing in agony, unable even to breathe. Once all the fins have been collected, the creatures are tossed overboard, still not dead. Something to point out is that the only part of the shark that humankind sees fit for its holier-than-thou consumption are the fins, so the rest of the shark, as I said, is thrown back into the water. Only then does the creature die, left in the ocean without means of mobility.
Secondly, the culling of sharks, which I’d assume many of you have not heard of, is the process of governments capturing and killing sharks in a certain public area. Naturally, as these governments are made up of people, this system is solely for their benefit and is only to make money off of the people who would not be going to their beaches where there are sharks in the area. An article by SurferToday expands on shark culling and its dangers, putting things into an important, factual perspective. For example, “On average, mosquitoes kill around 725,000 people every year; on the other side, shark attacks result in 10 deaths,” (SurferToday). And yet, we are making no efforts to eliminate all mosquitoes in a certain area.
According to an article by Monica Shrock for World of Vegan, a total of over 100,000,000 sharks are killed per year, which amounts to about 11,000 per hour, and 2-3 per SECOND.
Sharks kill about ten people a year (and these attacks, need I remind again, are not purposeful). This isn’t even remotely close to the already controversial philosophy of “an eye for an eye.” If you were to put the ratio into perspective, it would be something more like “an eye for about ten million eyes.” Even people who dislike sharks, surely, cannot think this is okay.
Sharks are killed every day--every second--and we are still considering them the villains. Sharks are seen as mindless killers, predators that prey on the innocent, and nothing more. But this is simply not true. Sharks are one of the most--if not the most--important species in our oceans, and they are still treated this way.
What if that were you? What if that were you?
What if your species did nothing wrong, did nothing to hurt these strange creatures who are not only killing you, your loved ones, and your food, but also invading your territory, telling everyone that you are the villains?
It really makes you think.
End of Trigger Warning
So, I urge you, sign a petition. Donate fifty cents. Do whatever you can to stop this. It only takes minutes to help. Anything you do or say or post will help.
Here is a reference to places you can donate: https://scubadiverlife.com/five-top-shark-charities/
Sharks are being killed every second of every day, in the most inhumane ways possible. They are in no sense evil. They are the real victims of this story, and we have to do all we can to fix this.
If in the scenario I mentioned at the beginning, you pictured the shark eating you whole, I acknowledge that this is not your fault, but I hope now you picture it differently.
Thank you for your time and I hope you do what you can to help save our sharks.
“The Importance of Sharks.” Oceana Europe, europe.oceana.org/en/importance-sharks-0.
Schrock, Monica. “Shark Finning Is Killing 11,000 Sharks Per Hour and Is Threatening Our Ocean.” World of Vegan, 12 July 2021, www.worldofvegan.com/shark-finning/.
SurferToday.com, Editor at. “Why Shark Culling Is Not the Answer.” Surfertoday, www.surfertoday.com/environment/why-shark-culling-is-not-the-answer.
US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Endangered Ocean: Sharks.” Ocean Today, 5 July 2011, oceantoday.noaa.gov/endoceansharks/.
US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Only about a Dozen of the More than 300 Species of Sharks Have Been Involved in Attacks on Humans. Sharks Evolved Millions of Years before Humans Existed and Therefore Humans Are Not Part of Their Normal Diets. Sharks Primarily Feed on Smaller Fish but Some Species Prey upon Seals, Sea Lions, and Other Marine Mammals.” NOAA's National Ocean Service, 1 June 2013, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sharkseat.html.