Sharks play an essential rol in the health of our oceans

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About crocodiles and sharks – who gets the blame?

Salt water crocodile, picture by Mike Parry

A few years ago, on a dive boat on the North Sea, one of our fellow divers, who is also an avid recreational angler, told me: “Whenever we catch a shark, we kill it by smashing its head on the boat railing”.  When asked why, he told me: “Because all sharks are mean”. As simple as that. He only caught cat sharks and dogfish, but felt the urge to do this.  Why has the perception of sharks become like this? Is this the ‘Jaws’ myth, created by Hollywood, that sharks actively hunt for people to feed on them?  The media frame shark bites in such a way, that the innocent reader has to think of sharks as mean, man-hunting predators. But people die of accidental bites, of which the effects can be devastating. They are not eaten.

We could argue, that this is only the perception of sharks that could kill a human being. Unfortunately, it is not.  When Dutch Shark Society’s Peter Verhoog photographed a starry smooth-hound in Dutch waters, people were terrified: now we are all in danger when swimming of the Dutch coast. This smooth-hound feeds on small squid… When interviewed for Dutch television, he was asked if he was out of his mind: “Who would possible dive with a shark – they will all kill you.”

Is this also the reason, that people just don’t care about sharks and the fact that an estimated 70 million are killed each year?

In the last 215 years in Australia, only 18 shark-related fatalities have occurred. That’s an average of one death every 12 years. In the US, where you are 5 times more likely to be bitten, your odds of drowning are 1 in 3.5 million. Your odds of dying from a shark bite are less than 1 in 264 million. And, in 2008, in Australia, one person died from a shark bite, 315 died from drowning and 694 died in car accidents.

On land, we have learned to live with large predators, we have learned to respect and avoid them. We admire the lion, the ‘King of the Savannah’. But in the last two years, there have been seven fatalities after crocodile encounters in Australia (worldwide, 136 people were killed by crocodiles (http://www.crocodile-attack.info/). And again in Australia, there is a demand for culling. A political action, there is no such thing as a rogue shark or crocodile.
Are we just going to cull every animal that could hurt us, or are we going to learn to live with nature?

Shark numbers are dwindling, something that can have devastating effects on the health of our oceans, and therefore on our Blue Planet. Saltwater crocodile numbers are only just recovering after the species was being hunted to extinction. We need to live with large predators, not kill them.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/shark-attack-professionals-warn-preemptive-culling-not-the-answer-20131201-2yjuf.html
http://world.time.com/2013/09/12/forget-the-sharks-here-come-the-crocs-why-australias-monsters-are-multiplying/

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