Sharks are perhaps the most misunderstood animals in our oceans. While these remarkable fish are indeed stealthy predators, people are more of a threat to sharks than sharks are to humans. Research shows that more than 100 million sharks are killed every year in the global shark fishery, with the Guy Harvey Research Institute estimating that up to 75 million sharks per year are killed for the fin trade alone.
So why is shark conservation important? Sharks are good for the environment and are a key element within the ocean ecosystem. As apex predators, sharks keep the ocean in balance, and their position near the top of the food chain keeps the entire ocean ecosystem in harmony. If sharks were to disappear, the structure of the food chain would become unbalanced, causing detrimental environmental changes and consequences.
The good news is that there are easy ways to save the sharks. Below are five ways you can make an impact:
- Educate yourself and others about the importance of sharks
The health of our oceans depends on sharks. Sharks keep fish populations healthy and from becoming too large. By preying on the weak and sick, sharks prevent the spread of disease among fish, and strengthen the gene pools of the prey species. Any change in fish populations can affect the ocean ecosystem dramatically – including harming coral reefs, impacting commercial fishing and loss of important marine habitats. Learn more about sharks at SeaWorld’s Shark Encounter exhibit and through SeaWorld’s partnership with OCEARCH, which works to save sharks and their habitats.
- Support anti-finning and do not consume or use shark products
Shark finning is the number one threat to sharks. Do not consume shark fins or meat, and avoid eating imitation crab, lobster and shrimp, or anything labeled rock salmon or pollock, as those are typically made from shark meat. Make sure your pet food does not contain shark, commonly listed as “fish by-products.” Finally, read cosmetic ingredients carefully and avoid products with shark ingredients. For example, squalene is a common ingredient in cosmetics, soaps and deodorants that is sometimes made of shark liver oil. Look for plant-based squalene instead.
- Reduce single use plastics
Our oceans are inundated with plastics and waste, which directly impact shark health. Recent research found that the smallest, barely visible particles of plastic in the ocean, called microplastics, are being ingested by sharks, and blocking their ability to absorb nutrients. To help save sharks, you can reduce your consumption of single-use plastics, like plastic utensils, cups and straws, cut out single-use plastic bags, and recycle whenever possible.
- Support sustainable and responsible fishing practices
Sharks are threatened by overfishing, particularly black market fishing. You can help sharks by eating shark-friendly sustainable fish from trusted sources.
- Stay informed on shark-related conservation issues and legislation, vote and volunteer
Sharks have existed in our oceans for 450 million years, yet they are threatened more than ever before. You can help save sharks. Stay informed on shark-related conservation issues and local or coastal legislation regarding shark conservation. Volunteer for shark conservation projects and use the power of your vote to take action. Plan a fun and educational trip to SeaWorld where you can get up close and personal with sharks at Shark Encounter and feel inspired to keep up the conservation fight! The health of our oceans depends on sharks. And sharks are depending on you.