Sunday, April 6, 2014

In the Ocean or in a Soup? Where Do Sharks Belong

Greetings everyone. I hope all is well with you all. Tonight I will be doing my obligatory shark blog that I do at the start of each and every campaign that I have done. The purpose of this blog is to provide some background on shark finning and long line fishing as it pertains to sharks. Many, many people do not have a clue as to what is going on in the world of sharks, so at the start of each campaign I like to do an educational blog to fill anyone in on what is going on in the world around them who may not know the truth. I'll throw the warning out there ahead of time. This blog will contain graphic images. There is no way I can fully get people to understand what is going on with these animals without literally showing the truth. So with that being said, allow me to expose the truth as to what is going on in the world of sharks.

People all over the world fear them, revere them, admire them, respect them, hate them, love them, want to kill them, and even worship them. Sounds like an awful amount of way to look at a type of animal doesn't it? Well these are all ways that people around the world look at sharks. Today I'll be focusing in on those who fear, hate, and want to kill these animals. Lets start with the people who fear these animals. Just like anything else in life, the fear has to come from something. For example, a person gets stung by a bee and has an allergic reaction. That person could very well now be afraid of bees due to what he or she knows will happen to him/her if they get stung again. Another example, as a child a creepy clown comes up and scares you half to death. Well, you could very well have a fear of clowns as a result of a clown scaring the life out of you. What do these have to do with sharks you may ask. The answer is nothing, but now ask where do so many people's fear of sharks come from. I can answer that in one ever so famous word. Media. From movies, to t.v. shows, to videogames, and even to print, sharks have been made out to be monsters.

This has been true since sharks made worldwide news for the first time during the 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey. News reports suggested that Germany had trained sharks to patrol the east coast of the United States and attack unsuspecting bathers. That is not a joke by the way, that is what people of the time were seriously led to believe. Since then we have literally tons of examples as to how the media has affected people's views on sharks. One of the most famous of them goes by the name of Jaws.

I am by no means going to get into the plot of this book and movie, but I will say that since it's release, it has given literally millions of people a fear and wrong impression of sharks. From Jaws other movies such as Deep Blue Sea, Open Water, Sharknado, and countless others have come out giving people the wrong idea of sharks. Discovery Channel's Shark Week has also driven more people to have an unneeded fear of these animals as opposed to an understanding of them. After all, it is blood that sells these days and not education. Whenever there is a shark attack in the world, the International media goes berserk. Regardless as to where it took place, the incident is usually in the news all over the world, leading more people to fear these animals. In reality though the fear that is being instilled is nothing more than a massive misunderstanding.

The next time you see a news report, tv show, movie, etc about sharks killing people keep these statistics taken directly from the International Shark Attack File in mind. They will give you a much more realistic view on just how at risk you really are when it comes to shark attacks.

From 1959-2010 a total of 26 people died after being bitten by a shark. In that same time span, 1,970 people were killed from lightning strikes.

From 2001-2010 a total of 10 people died after being bitten by a shark. In that same time span, 263 people were killed from being bitten by a dog.

Odds of drowning and other beach-related fatalities: 1 in 2 million. Odds of being killed by a shark: 0 in 264.1 million. Odds of being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million.

Those are just a couple of the statistics that are incredibly real. You would never really know about them if you just listen to what the media says. That fear is what keeps the interest of sharks in the media alive and well. If people were more educated on these animals and just how not dangerous they are, I believe we wouldn't hear about them biting people at all.

Now for the main point of the blog now that I have once again trashed the media on this topic, and in the process probably annoyed someone lets look at why people kill sharks. Fear is certainly one reason. I clearly explained where I believe a lot of that fear comes from, but now lets dive deeper. Here is the number one reason in the world that people are killing sharks...

The pictures say it all. The number one reason that sharks are being killed is for their fins. Really what it can be boiled down to is that sharks are being slaughtered for money. The real scary thing is the scale that sharks are being killed on. In a 2013 study, it was concluded that roughly 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year. That is not a made up number folks. That is just how large of a scale this problem is. It is known as shark finning and it is a major, major problem in our world. Shark finning is an incredibly cruel practice that is going on every day, even in some of your front yards or back yards(if you live right on the ocean of course). Shark finning is well... This...

If the pictures do not tell the tale, shark finning is the process of catching a shark, cutting off it's fins, and then usually throwing the often times still living shark back into the sea where it will die from either drowning (yes sharks can drown), starvation, blood loss, or from being eaten by other animals. No shark that is finned can survive for long. Often times shark finning goes hand in hand with long line fishing. Long line fishing is a style of fishing that involves deploying fishing lines that can reach up to 100 miles in length. Every few feet there are baited hooks that are meant to catch tuna and other large game fish. The problem with this style of fishing is that it is 100% indiscriminate. It not only catches it's targeted catch, but other animals including seals, dolphins, turtles, sharks, and a wide variety of sea birds are often times caught on the hooks or entangled in the lines. Since the lines are so long, they are not checked often and usually the animals that are hooked die before the fishermen get back to them. When sharks are caught, it is rare that they are released healthy and alive. Most of the time they are dragged onto the boats (dead or alive), finned, and tossed back to sea (dead or alive).

The sole reason that this practice exists is due to the existence of a soup known as shark fin soup. To give you an idea just how much this soup means to some people, it usually goes for about $100 USD. You read that right. 100 dollars for a bowl of soup. The fins themselves sell for an extreme amount of money as well. For example, it is not uncommon for whale shark fins to sell for over $10,000 USD. Yes. Ten thousand dollars for one fin. The demand for fins is what is driving the prices of the fins through the roof and is what helps to make shark finning appealing to many people. Yet this practice cannot go on for long. Sharks are very slow to reproduce and some species as a direct result to this practice have seen their populations drop by over 90%. Every year, fewer and fewer sharks are being caught and it is not because there are less fishermen. These animals need our help  and while many countries have really started to step up to protect sharks, others such as Australia, would rather commit an all out war against them. We simply cannot allow sharks to vanish from this Earth. This is not a theory as to what will happen if sharks vanish. if they do, the world as we know it will be gone. Just like life on land, life in the sea lives in a very gentle balance. The food chain is designed so the apex predators reproduce slowly and keep their own populations in check while also helping to control the lower level animals. Take away that top link and the entire thing will crumble.

So to answer the question posed in the title of this blog. Sharks DO NOT belong in a bowl of soup. In fact shark fin soup has now been linked to several well known diseases including degenerative brain disease and Alzheimer's. To top it off, shark contains dangerously high levels of Mercury. In fact the FDA suggest that women and children avoid eating shark in general and strongly advise men to do the same. So not only is shark fin soup dangerous for the environment and our future, it is also extremely hazardous to our health. So what can be done? Spreading the word is by far the best weapon we have in the race to save sharks. The more people we can all warn about shark fin soup, shark finning, and the impacts that they do and will have on our oceans and lives, the better. The demand for shark fins has started to slowly decline as more and more people do become aware. China, considered the shark fin capital of the world, has even stepped up it's game to save sharks by banning shark fin soup from all government functions. Several hotel chains in China have also stopped the sale of the soup. It is not too late yet to save these animals. If China is willing to start changing their ways for the better, than we can certainly spread that feeling across the globe! It is our future. Do we want a world with sharks and healthy oceans or do we want one without sharks where the oceans are virtually giant algae beds devoid of life? If you would rather see the second choice then also be prepared for a world where life (yes even human) on land cannot exist either! Again, I am not being dramatic about this. The time to save sharks is now! Lets all do this together and show the world that we care about OUR future!

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