Column: Predator or prey

Alyssa Cheatham

Emily Lundell
“Sharks killing of humans is accidental, but the same can’t be said for humans. Man’s slaughter of sharks is purposeful.”

Shark Week has been important in my family since I was young. It started as an excuse to clear our busy schedules and spend time together, even if that meant watching documentaries together.

As my siblings and I got older, it was easy for them to forget about our tradition between band and school. However, I still had an abundance of free time to watch the documentaries myself. I think that’s when my love for sharks began.

Most people see sharks and think of scary creatures like the sharks from movies that perpetuate the idea that sharks are out to get humans. However, I have a completely different perspective on sharks.

Sharks are creatures who deserve our appreciation. Their habitat is constantly bombarded by humans, boats and other things they aren’t accustomed to. To figure out what these things are, sharks will bump it with their snout or bite it. This gives humans a negative view of them, but what else are they supposed to do?

Sharks are often times just as afraid of us as we are of them. If a human looks like a threat to them, their prey, or their young then they will attack because of their instinct to protect what is theirs, just like humans do.

Sharks may bite because they believe humans on surfboards are turtles or because swim fins make a humans legs look like seals. Rarely do they ever bite to kill and attempt to eat humans as many people today believe. Sharks killing of humans is accidental, but the same can’t be said for humans. Man’s slaughter of sharks is purposeful.

There are around a hundred shark bites per year, and almost all of them have explanations, most being that the shark was provoked by a human. What explanation do we have for 130 million sharks killed by humans per year? Drifting Nets? Shark fin soup demand? People being afraid of sharks? Should all these sharks die because of people’s fear?

Culling, the selective slaughter of a specific wild animal species, often occurs because a person got bitten by a shark, and the community becomes afraid. This panic often leads to the decision to cull that shark species from their area. Because of these cullings, shark populations rapidly decline in places like Florida and Australia.

Most sharks have to constantly swim to survive, but they will often get caught in drifting fishing nets that have broken off of ships. If sharks do live long enough to get reeled in, many fishermen become annoyed and shoot them before throwing them back into the ocean.

Shark fin soup, a $200 delicacy, is heavily sought after in many Asian countries. Legal and illegal shark finning businesses have popped up across the world and will catch sharks just to cut all their fins off and throw them back into the water. Without being able to swim, those sharks die a long and dragged out death while they sink to the bottom, eventually suffocating.

Whether people like it or not, sharks are a vital part of our ocean ecosystem. Whether it’s filter feeders such as Whale Sharks eating only plankton and algae, top predators like a White Sharks or Wobbegong Sharks, one which doesn’t have the typical features of a shark, they are all important.

Without them our ecosystem would be completely thrown out of balance. Prey species populations will rise, and it will cause a dramatic shift in the oceanic food chain.

There are people out there who want to protect sharks though. Marine biologists, shark experts, and organizations like Sea Shepherd go out of their way to do just that.

Although I don’t plan on becoming a marine biologist, I do plan to volunteer on one of Sea Shepherds’ ships, be a part of the group that stops illegal fishers, be an advocate for the protection of sharks and I plan to be a voice for these voiceless fish. I want to protect these valuable sharks from the real predator—man.