Shark Week may be over, but that doesn’t mean sharks should be “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” until next year’s Shark Week. Sharks and rays are crucial members of their ecosystems as apex predators and mid-level predators, also known as meso predators (Heupel, Knip, Simpfendorfer, & Dulvy, 2014). But each year millions of sharks and rays are removed from their environments as a result of overfishing and bycatch, climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction. The majority of sharks take many years to reach sexual maturity, and their ability to reproduce varies greatly from species to species, which can limit their ability to bounce back from population declines (Skomal, 2016). Conservation efforts are crucial to protect sharks and rays from extinction and there are ways you can help every day!
Avoid Products Containing Shark
Most people have heard from shark fin soup, but have you heard of shark skin products? There are many products made from the oils in shark livers that claim to do wonders for the skin:
“SKINMATE SHARK OIL FOREVER YOUNG is an intensified whitening, anti-aging facial care with SHARK LIVER OIL content, reinforced ingredients of glutathione, kojic acid and natural ingredients discovered in plants proven to help minimize the first signs of aging.” -Forever Young Skinmate tumblr account
However, studies have actually shown that using and consuming shark meat and oils can actually cause more harm than good (García-Hernández, et al., 2007). By boycotting shark products, we will reduce the demand on the market, and ultimately squash the need for killing for feed the supply.
REDUCE! REUSE! RECYCLE!
This one is HUGE! Single use plastics especially have become an epidemic! As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste has been generated. Of that waste, 79% has been placed into landfills or into the natural environment, 12% has been incinerated, and only 9% has been recycled (Geyer, Jambeck, & Law, 2017).
Recycling is a great step to making a positive impact on our environment. But we must also begin to rethink how we are using plastics in the first place. Remember it is REDUCE and REUSE before ultimately RECYCLING.
- REDUCE the amount of plastics and other waste you are creating by making smarter choices when shopping. Bring your own canvas shopping bags. Purchase non-plastic wrapped items.
- REUSE old items in new, exciting ways! For example, JYNCreations reuses single use plastic bags to crochet beautiful animals to sell in her Etsy shop. The proceeds benefit ocean cleanup projects.
TED-ed (2015 April 21). What really happens to the plastic you throw away- Emma Bryce [Video Clip]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6xlNyWPpB8
Reconsider Your Seafood Consumption
The fishing industry impacts sharks and rays in several ways. Their food resources can be negatively impacted directly by over fishing and they are also directly targeted, taken for their meat or fins, or even caught as bycatch (Clarke, 2004). By reducing your seafood consumption, you are directly reducing the demand on the fisheries industry. Another option is to also reconsider what kinds of seafood you are consuming.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has created the Seafood Watch App which is available for both Apple and Android.
“It’s easier than ever to get the latest recommendations for seafood and sushi, learn more about the seafood you eat, and locate or share businesses that serve sustainable seafood.” -Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch
Engage Your Legislators
Write letters, make phone calls, go to town halls, send emails, tweets, do whatever it takes to get involved! But get engaged with your legislators! Marine mammal and turtle conservation efforts have far surpassed shark and ray conservation over the 20 years largely because of public support for the legislation. Your legislators need to hear from you! Be the voice sharks don’t have! Contact your Congressman!
Thanks for doing your part every day!
Featured Image Source
Stewart, R. (2008). Sharkwater [Screencapture]. Montreal: Sharkwater Production & Diatribe Pictures.
Clarke, S. (2004). Understanding pressures on fishery resources through trade statistics: A pilot study of four products in the Chinese dried seafood market. Fish and Fisheries, 5(1), 53–74. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2960.2004.00137.x
García-Hernández, J., Cadena-Cárdenas, L., Betancourt-Lozano, M., García-De-La-Parra, L. M., García-Rico, L., & Márquez-Farías, F. (2007). Total mercury content found in edible tissues of top predator fish from the Gulf of California, Mexico. Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry, 89(3), 507-522.
Geyer, R., Jambeck, J. R., & Law, K. L. (2017). Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances, 3(7), e1700782.
Heupel, M. R., Knip, D. M., Simpfendorfer, C. A., & Dulvy, N. K. (2014). Sizing up the ecological role of sharks as predators. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 495, 291–298. http://doi.org/10.3354/meps10597
Skomal, G. (2016). The Shark Handbook: The Essential Guide for Understanding the Sharks of the World. (2nd ed.). Kennebunkport, ME: Cider Mill Press.