Sharks inspire fear, for good reason, they are apex predators. Like all predators, they are critical to the balance of the oceans ecosystem. Brian Skerry, award winning photojournalist wrote an article on the importance of sharks, stating:
“…in the last six decades, we have lost an estimated 90 percent of shark populations to our own predatory behaviors like overfishing and “finning” sharks for shark fin soup. Remove the predators, and the whole ecosystem begins to crash. As the sharks disappear, the predator-prey balance dramatically shifts, and the health of our oceans declines. Since the majority of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean, not to mention much of the world’s protein, it is not an exaggeration to say that when our oceans’ health declines, our very survival is at risk.”
Here are a few facts highlighting the importance of sharks:
1. Carbon is a critical element in the cycle of life — and a contributor to climate change. By feeding on dead matter that collects on the seafloor, scavengers like deep-sea sharks, hagfish and starfish help to move carbon through the ocean.
2. Shark tissue appears to have anticoagulant and antibacterial properties. Scientists are studying it in hopes of finding treatments for a number of medical conditions, including viruses and cystic fibrosis.
3. With a history spanning more than 400 million years, sharks can teach us a lot about speed and efficiency in the water. In fact, some researchers are now trying to make artificial shark skin that would reduce friction drag and prevent the accumulation of algae and barnacles in the water — and even prevent bacterial growth when applied to hospital surfaces.
4. Sharks keep populations of their prey in check, weeding out the weak and sick animals to keep the overall population healthy. Their disappearance can set off a chain reaction throughout the ocean — and even impact people on shore. For example, a study found that large sharks have declined dramatically in the northwest Atlantic since the mid-1980s. The presence of fewer sharks led to a population explosion of species like cownose rays, which in turn depleted the region’s bay scallops. This was an important factor in the collapse of North Carolina’s century-old bay scallop fishing industry.
Even if you’re not ready to dive into shark-infested waters, you can show some love for sharks and support the efforts of many conservation groups to keep the species thriving and alive. The human race cannot afford to lose such an important resource so show sharks some love!