Dun dun…dun dun…dun dun dun dun dun dun dun. Yep! You’ve all heard the famous theme song from Jaws, the movie that based on the hit Peter Benchley novel of the same name in the 1970s. It’s a classic movie (shame on you if you haven’t seen it) that bore famous lines such as “we’re going to need a bigger boat”. The story it tells is that of a small sea side town called Amity. A town that rarely experiences any form of crime. In fact, nothing ever happens. That is, except for the summertime when the beaches fill up as holidaymakers enjoy the sun sea and sand. That is, until a Great White Shark arrives, turning the lives of all that live there upside down.
The story paints a clear picture. A picture of a monster, a feeding machine that has blood lust for human flesh. It was at this point that sharks got widespread coverage as monsters of the deep. But there is a fundamental problem here. The fact is, sharks are extremely misunderstood. The picture portrayed by the book and by the movie was quite inaccurate. Indeed, the author Peter Benchley himself regretted the impact that his story had on sharks.
Sharks have been on Earth for around 400 million years. They have evolved to become the top predator in our oceans. Without them, our marine ecosystems would collapse. Sharks are amazing creatures but the often get overlooked because they aren’t as friendly as dolphins, whales or seals. These animals are seen as cute and fluffy. But who will stand up for the shark?
The movie “Jaws” is a simple movie, who’s concepts were fictional and depictions of shark behaviour – inaccurate, has now led to generation upon generation handing down a baseless fear of these amazing creatures.
“If I have one hope, it is that we will come to appreciate and protect these wonderful animals before we manage, through ignorance, stupidity and greed, to wipe them out altogether.”
– Peter Benchley (author of ‘Jaws’)
Shark populations face the threat of extinction in every part of the world primarily due to overfishing driven by the high demand for shark fins. However there are additional threats facing sharks that include by-catch, where sharks are killed when other seafood is being targeted, recreational fishing, sharks being used for ingredients in cosmetics or health supplements, destruction of habitat and more.
And did you know that shark fins are obtained by removing the fins of the shark while they are still alive before they are thrown back into the water leaving them helpless to other predators if they do not bleed out beforehand in absolute agony.
According to Oceana, of the nearly 500 species of sharks, only about a dozen are potentially dangerous to humans. Even for those species that are, humans aren’t preferred prey. Furthermore, they don’t attack people that often—certainly not enough to warrant their stereotype.
More needs to be done to protect these beautiful creatures from extinction. Educate yourself. Be wary of the products you purchase and what materials they are made from. Only support sustainable fishing if you eat fish (fishing is so cruel!!). Do not support companies that sponsor recreational shark hunts!