Assuming the worst about sharks   Leave a comment

They were busy devouring anything that they could fit into their mouths millions of years before Homo sapiens walked the earth. Even now they have a reputation for consuming all manner of things outside of their normal diet and examination of their stomach contents has turned up everything from seaweed, to old clothes, to books, and plastic bags.

Man has long been plagued by their existence but they are actually a staple in certain poorer countries where their meat is dried, salted, and preserved for long journeys. They are considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures where vast quantities are often consumed.

They have a much lower birth rate than bony fishes and are extremely rare in Antarctica but they have adapted to survive in almost every other environment resulting in an exceptionally broad global presence. They can even be found swimming in fresh water.

Larger specimens are extremely dangerous especially when cornered or if food is present and there are many documented instances of attacks resulting in serious injuries and deaths.

In some places protective barriers have been installed to try to keep these evil creatures at bay but invariably they break through or find their way around them with dire consequences.

Probably we will never be rid of these creatures and will have to live in an uneasy truce with the knowledge that they are out there eating everything they can.

GOATS – damn them!

Yes, I’m intentionally misdirecting the reader. The fact is that everything I wrote is true about goats but more commonly expected of sharks. Sharks are actually extremely picky eaters for the most part. They also generally have no desire to get anywhere near humanity. In fact, of the 500 or so species of sharks that swim in the worlds oceans only a handful are seen along beaches where people are likely to be swimming.

A barrier is also a misnomer underwater. The ‘barriers’ that are strategically positioned along beaches where Great White Sharks and other species patrol are not designed to keep sharks out. They are designed to catch sharks and drown them. Sadly this works all too well resulting in a drastic reduction in Apex Predators in areas where seal and other large pinniped species need the sharks to hold their numbers in check.

Shark nets are not actually continuous in the way that a fence is and sharks are just as likely to be seen swimming inside the nets as outside. What would the public think if they realised that the shark nets are trapping sharks near public beaches! Even if you believe that by reducing the number of sharks the nets are a good thing, its worth noting that sharks are not the only victims. Shark nets catch many dolphins and porpoises, as well as turtles, rays, and even the occasional whale.

I’m not trying to encourage a situation that leads to more shark attacks but maybe installing marinelife death traps is not the answer. There is currently a great deal of effort being put into creating viable alternatives to shark nets. The latest idea is to string magnets that repulse the sharks before they get close enough to become entangled. Lets hope that whatever device is eventually used to replace shark nets protects the sharks as well as us.

For the sharks,

Andy Murch
Andy is the Staff Photographer at Shark Diver Magazine and the host of Elasmodiver.com which is one of the largest sources of information about sharks and rays on the internet.

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Posted May 25, 2006 by Andy Murch in Environment, Nature, Sharks, Uncategorized

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