In light of Shark Week, many of our partner ZAMs are making an effort to spread awareness of the issues harming shark populations and sharing tips to help the cause. Here are a few tips to share with visitors to help keep the many threatened sharks species from disappearing from the oceans:
Learn the issues and spread the word. The best way to advocate for the sharks is to know the facts. Media hype feeds our irrational fear of these special creatures, leading us to believe that sharks are merely evil man-eaters. The truth is sharks kill fewer than 4 humans on average each year, while humans kill an estimated 100 million sharks annually. You're more likely to be killed by a lightning strike or falling vending machine than a shark bite! As apex predators, they're invaluable in maintaining the balance of the ocean ecosystems. They may be at the top of the marine food web, but sharks are vulnerable to overfishing, by-catching, and finning.
Read about the issues here and help diminish the myths by blogging, writing articles, reaching out to media outlets, and hosting a local screening and discussion of the movie Sharkwater. Also, try contacting your local policymakers or signing petitions urging legislators to ban shark product sales. Just make sure your voice gets heard.
Be a responsible consumer and avoid shark products. One product to avoid at all costs is shark meat. Shark meat can be found in the form of soups and steaks, but they are also in imitation crab, lobster or shrimp. Stay away from "white fish", "rock salmon", or the other names for shark meat. Buying it would not only support the dangerous shark trade industry and it is unhealthy to consume because of high mercury levels. You may be surprised to learn that there are shark parts be used in other non-food products and the ingredients are often called a different name. Quite deceiving! Don't buy any cosmetics, lotions, or deodorants that contain Squalene, which is shark liver oil. It is better to buy "cruelty-free" products whenever possible. Find out if your products contain shark parts, tell the business owner why you no longer support their product, and spend your money on a brand that does not.
Make smart seafood choices. Half of the 100 millions of sharks killed are from by-catch. This is when fishermen unintentionally catch sharks in efforts to catch other fish. The best thing to do is to stop eating fish, but for those who must feed their craving for seafood, buy some that was caught with shark safe techniques. These include no longlines, fish aggregating devices, gillnets or trawl netting. There are lots of ways to find out what seafood is best to eat. Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch is provides a regional pocket guide as well as a downloadable app. The World Wildlife Foundations provides a collection of seafood consumer guides from all over the world.
Sharks belong in the ocean, so let's keep them in the ocean. Never support any type of shark fishing competitions. These "monster" shark tournaments lead to the torturing, injuring, and killing of sharks. Even catching and releasing them is dangerous because the sharks often can't recover and don't survive once released back into the water.
Get involved to save the sharks. Donate your time, skills, or money to organizations working to save sharks. Check out what our partners are doing to keep sharks from disappearing from othe oceans: Save Our Seas Shark Centre, The Shark Alliance, The Shark Research Institute, Shark Truth, South African Shark Conservancy, and the Whale, Sea Life & Shark Museum. Other shark advocacy organizations include Shark Angels, Shark Defenders, and Shark Savers.