BY AVA BROINOWSKI THOMPSON, THE 14-YEAR-OLD PLANET LOVER
As a teen living in Sydney, Australia, I love going to the beach with friends on a blazing summer day or snorkelling for fish. Ocean health is something I appreciate, not just for marine life but also for my, and others, enjoyment. A friend of mine I often visit the beach with has said that she is “terrified of sharks but I respect the role that they play for the planet”.
Sharks are apex predators, which are the animals at the very top of the food chain, and in this position they play a crucial role in maintaining the species ‘below’ them. Maintaining the populations of other species plays a part in keeping marine plants alive and well, ultimately contributing to overall ocean health.
Personally I think sharks are pretty glorious creatures as long as you don’t get too close but unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, they’re dying out quite quickly.
The main reasons for that are:
The truth is sharks would far prefer to eat fish compared to humans, however, like most animals, they get confused and curious. If a shark seas someone splashing in the water, it’ll investigate, possibly leading to an accidental attack. It’s true these attacks can be purposeful if the shark feels threatened or if the shark mistakes a person for a seal – a likely result of wearing a dark wetsuit. Despite this fact, many governments across the globe are trying to kill sharks near areas where humans swim in the fear they are a threat. I believe killing any creature for it’s natural instincts is cruel. Another reason for the culling of sharks is purely for material gain. Parts of a shark such as the fins and skin are thought of as useful for shark fin soup or leather. When a shark is culled for it’s fins, they are usually deposited back in the water to drown without it’s fin, a cruel death.
Overfishing takes it’s toll on sharks as well. We’ve taken far more from the ocean than what we should have and as a result the marine food chain has been heavily disrupted. Most sharks usually eat small fish and invertebrates, many of which get caught up in fishing nets. It becomes increasingly difficult for sharks to have access to their prey. Not only does this affect them but countless other predators as well such as Bluefin tuna, marlin and king mackerel, all which are currently endangered.
Pollution is an undeniable issue facing our oceans, and if you read my last article, you may have seen just a few of the ways it destroys the ocean. Pollution comes in many forms, from micro plastics that kill off the food sources of sharks to toxic substances that we let seep into the ocean from the things we’re washing down our drains. Both of these forms of pollution make their way into marine life and stay there permanently, as the creatures are unable to digest them. As a result, the food chain is polluted which is leading to all sorts of illness in marine life, and unknown damage to us further up the chain.
I know that sharks may not be cute or fluffy but they are incredibly important creatures that contribute to ocean health, which in the end, contributes to your swimming, snorkelling or beach experience being far better.
I believe some of the best ways to help sharks survive is to:
PROMOTE THE ISSUE ON SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
This can help inform people that sharks aren’t as horrifying as they’re said to be and just explain that they are, in fact, amazing animals.
Sign petitions to help bring awareness to the issues that are overfishing and pollution, this will help corporations who use the ocean to their advantage realise that what they’re doing is wrong.
Be cautious of your own pollution and the impact you have on the environment. Making sure you don’t litter isn’t the only thing that can help save the ocean. Next time you go to the beach, try to look for a few bits of rubbish to put in the bin. This is part of the #take3forthesea project, which you can look up on any social media and help reduce plastic waste.
CHECK YOUR PRODUCTS
Check the ingredients of your conditioner, shampoo, body wash etc. and make sure it’s free of any sort of polyethylene, nylon or polymethyl, or any other chemical/micro plastic that can harm marine life.
Overall, it really isn’t that difficult for anyone to put in a little effort and save the sharks. You can help save the animals that massively contribute to not only your ocean experience but also the health of the delicate marine food chain. Like I said, sharks are pretty glorious creatures and I hope that now you think so too.