If you are not in the loop on sharks and their global well-being, they are not in a great way. Here are some quick facts to get you up to speed.
- Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year
- Since the 1970s, 70% of the oceanic shark and ray population has been wiped out
- Sharks are killed as a result of overfishing, and bycatch, but mostly it’s due to the demand for shark fin soup, a delicacy in China
- The top five shark fishing countries are:
So, as you can see, there is just an overwhelming amount of threats against them, especially when you also consider the fact that their food supply is decreasing and breeding grounds—mangroves and lagoons—are being destroyed. While it’s not necessarily too far gone, there is some urgency needed when it comes to shark conservation. There are a lot of conservation groups out there, like Thrive Conservation, Bite-Back Shark & Marine Conservation, and the Misool Foundation—all of which we make annual donations to via our Every Trip Program, who are actively advocating for sharks on a daily basis and have achieved some landmark victories with projects like as the StaR project. So, aside from contributing funds to shark conservation groups like the ones above, what can you do as a regular citizen passionate about shark conservation? Here are a couple of things you can do.
Stop Watching Shark Week (asking politely)
Shark Week has become an annual event on the Discovery Channel that apparently originated as a way of helping correct the misconceptions about sharks with shark-based episodes. While that may have been the case, the episode lineup for 2023 involved titles like “Cocaine Shark”, “Mega Sharks of Dangerous Reef”, “Serial Killer: Red Sea Attacks”, and “Monsters of the Bermuda Triangle”. The lineup for 2022 and pretty much every year before that was essentially the same. I think it’s safe to say that their apparent initial mission has long since passed, and that the current form of the series tends to lean quite heavily on sensationalization and fear. If you really want to watch something factual and beautiful about sharks, watch any of the BBC natural history series that have to do with the ocean, like the Blue Planets or the Planet Earths.
Lobby your Government Representatives
Even though most of the sharks caught are destined to wind up in a bland soup in China—at least their fins are, their bodies will either be dumped back into the ocean, end up in ceviche, or become battered, fried, and served as the “fish” in fish and chips—the countries caching and exporting shark fins for millions of dollars are not necessarily the ones you’d suspect, and quite possibly your country! So, if you find out that your country is casually and quietly profiting from the decimation of the world’s shark population, let your local government representatives know how you feel.
Snorkel with Sharks
Snorkeling with sharks is one of the easiest and arguably the most fun ways to help protect sharks. By spending money to go swimming with sharks, you’re now showing everyone (governments, fisheries, etc.) that there is a financial incentive to keep sharks alive.
Currently, shark tourism is estimated to bring in over three-hundred million dollars annually. The shark fin trade brings in around four hundred million a year, which is a bummer. However, with only a one-hundred million dollar difference, if more and more people ditch their fears of sharks by not watching fear-based over-sensationalized jibber-jabber like Shark Week and go actively swim with sharks, that financial gap will be gone and sharks will have the fiscal upper hand! Here are some of our snorkeling safaris where sharks are present on most of the snorkels.