Should Sharks Be Protected?
Sharks provoke the feelings of fear and anxiety in many people. “Thanks to sensationalized stories and stereotyping, sharks have become feared rather than revered” (Mosbergen, 2013). It is no coincidence, because they might represent a serious danger to human health and life. Each year, from fifty to eighty attacks of these predators on people are registered worldwide (“International Shark Attack File”, 2013). Unfortunately, some of these cases are fatal. A negative attitude towards sharks found expression in the fact that they are eliminated worldwide. They are being killed for various reasons, either in order to revenge or for commercial purposes. For example, many people are aware of the so-called shark fin soup. Annually, about 100 million sharks are killed worldwide (Mosbergen, 2013). Until now, there is a method of removal fins from live sharks, which are used for cooking. After the fins are cut, sharks are thrown into the water, thus they are usually still alive. Without fins, sharks cannot swim. They sink to the bottom and die.
Greed and the negative attitudes towards sharks as beings, which do not have any significance, might lead to the extinction of many species of sharks. Despite the danger that these animals pose to humans, there are many supporters of the idea that they should be protected. Indeed, the value of sharks, in particular, for the ecosystems around the world cannot be overstated. According to preliminary data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 30 percent of sharks are on the verge of extinction, and 24 percent under the threat of extinction (Camhi, Valenti, Fordham, Fowler & Claudine Gibson, 2009). Intensive fishing has the greatest danger to marine predators. Fishing reduces the amount of food available to the sharks. In addition, predators often get in fishnets.
The Arguments in Favor of Shark Protection
- Sharks keep the balance of nature. As predators, they simultaneously perform the role of a medic and a regulator of the population of other organisms living in the sea. Observations suggest that the destruction of predators results in the extinction of their victims. The destruction of predators can disrupt the natural balance of nature and lead to catastrophic consequences. In the absence of natural enemies, the number of herbivorous animals or fish begin to increase rapidly. Huge herds and flocks eat away and trample down all grasses and algae, as well as destroy shrubs and young trees on the territory of their habitat. As a result, due to lack of fodder and herbivores they die themselves. In addition, the potential victims of sharks are threatened with species extinction because of the spread of various infections and diseases. Thus, sharks, eating certain amount of herbivores or fish, affect their survival, as well as the state of the flora.
- Protecting sharks saves coral reefs. Severe storms and the increase of water temperature cause damage to coral reefs. The study showed that sharks could be extremely helpful for corals. The reduction of the number of sharks, which live in the reefs, may have a negative impact on the coral colony. According to the research held by the international team of Australian and Canadian scientists on the territory of the reef near the northeast coast of Australia, it has become clear that overfishing of sharks on reefs leads to reduction in the number of herbivores fish. The massacre of sharks leads to an increase in small prey fish. Consequently, the population of such important herbivores inhabitants of reefs as a parrotfish is reduced. Numerous species of a parrotfish feed on algae and protect young corals from overgrowing.
- Sharks are good indicators of ecosystem’s health. “The loss of sharks from certain areas may be an indicator of an ecosystem out of balance and in trouble” (“Why protect sharks?”, n. d.).
- “Sharks are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food, produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas), and controls our planet’s temperature and weather” (“Why we need sharks”, n. d.).
- Moreover, the conservation of sharks may be of interest from an economic standpoint. In particular, it makes sense to create various kinds of reserves for sharks. Sharks can have a great economic value, staying alive and swimming in the sea, rather than “swimming” in a plate of soup. Australian scientists have calculated that the “tourist” value of each shark (especially white reef and white tip sharks), i.e. its ability to attract divers from around the world, is $ 2 million. “Underwater” tourism can make a significant source of income for different countries. Many tourists want to swim with sharks.
Thus, the value of sharks is not only environmental, but also economic. The ecological role of sharks is to maintain the normal functioning of marine ecosystems, the economic value of which is difficult to assess. Creating various sanctuaries will save dozens of different species, including a shark-hammer, the Caribbean reef shark and a white tip shark. In turn, the economic role of sharks might allow many countries to have a fairly significant source of financial income, which without harming sharks might help different states use a serious amount of money for social services and other domestic needs.
The Arguments against Protecting Sharks
As for the arguments against protecting sharks, the main among them is the claim that sharks pose a serious danger to the health and lives of many people. Opponents claim every year a large number of people die from the injuries inflicted by sharks in the world. According to them, white sharks have a particular danger, as they are considered one of the most dangerous shark species. However, as noted by National Geographic (n. d.), “you have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu and a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark during your lifetime”. According to studies, only a few species of sharks regularly make unprovoked attacks on people, and mostly this is due to an error in the identification of a victim (Du Plessis, n. d.). People need to understand that they invade the territory, which have been belonging to sharks for several million years. One might agree with the statement that “the oceans are the great white shark’s environment and as humans continue to exploit this environment more and more, it often results in tragedy” (Wellbelove, 2011). Given the fact that sharks are distributed worldwide, their destruction will lead to global consequences (“Why do we have to protect the sharks?”, n. d.)
Sharks should be protected because their uncontrolled destruction will lead to serious consequences for the entire global ecosystem. As predators, they serve as a powerful regulator of the natural balance. It is not possible to overestimate their importance to the world’s ecosystem. As for their risks to people, studies show that people are killed by sharks much rarer than from the bite, for example, of jellyfish or snakes. The task of the modern society is the elucidation of the significance of sharks for the nature. Protecting sharks should be performed against the background of fighting with various unfounded stereotypes and myths in relation to sharks. Only in this case, the measures to protect sharks will be effective. People should not see sharks as bloodthirsty killers. They need to see them, first of all, as an important part of nature, without which the balance of the world’s ecosystem will be disturbed.