Kill the Ocean, Destroy the Planet

Great white shark at Isla Guadalupe, Mexico, A...

Media sensationalism and extensive ignorance has given the great white shark a bad reputation and on the brink of extinction. According to the International Shark Attack File, the species is responsible for seventy-five confirmed unprovoked attacks on humans worldwide in 2011.  Their role as a menace is very much exaggerated.

A creature that is inclusively feared since 1945 when the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed, hurling Nine Hundred men into the shark infested waters of the Pacific Ocean creating a feeding frenzy for hundreds of starving sharks. A fear once again provoked in 1975 when Steven Spielberg made the movie Jaws. These two specific events have created an unnecessary panic-stricken society that is ignorant with fear and are badly informed.

In the United States during 2010 the number of fatal dog attacks was thirty-three and sharks had two fatalities. In 2009 the number of bicycle fatalities was 630 and sharks, one. In 2005 the number of fatal alligator attacks was eighteen and sharks, nine. states Forty million sharks of all classes are needlessly slaughtered every year. UniSci reveals that 150 people die each year from being knocked in the head by falling coconuts. That’s fifteen times the number of shark fatalities. Does that mean all the coconut trees should be chopped down?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, have classed the Great White as globally vulnerable to extinction and listed the species in Appendix II. Because of this decline the shark may no longer fulfill its eco roles.

Great white shark caught off Hualien County, T... Since 1996, dramatic declines in shark populations have affected the marine ecosystem as the great white’s main environmental role is to keep balance as well as a healthy ecosystem by cleaning the ocean from the sick and weak. They also keep the seal and sea lions population in check. Marine Biologists have discovered that the decline in Great White Sharks is the direct result of over population of seals and sea lions which is responsible for the declining salmon population on the California and Oregon coasts. If this continues to happen and apex predators do go extinct, the entire ecological unit will be lost. It is extremely important for marine ecosystems to stay in balance by maintaining shark populations.

One company, Oceans Research, uses a unique technique to keep track of great whites called Photo Identification Technique. This method records the place and the time a specific shark is spotted by researchers. The sex, size, approximate weight, behavior, unique body features, and most importantly, the dorsal fin are also recorded.

Hermanus Backpackers
Great White Dorsal Fin

Dorsal fin identification will help identify sharks by recording specific shape of the fin, notches, pigmentation, marks, bits, spots, scars, and deformities. When possible, great whites are tagged with a satellite tracker, and skin and tissue samples taken as well. From the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2009, it’s been documented that one tagged great white shark swam between South Africa and Australia, a distance of 12,000 miles, in 9 months.

Sharks are not mindless killing machines set out to get anyone who uses the ocean as their own person playground. Sharks are intelligent and can learn to refine their skills as they age. They have an exceptionally well-developed sense of smell and their vision may also be acute. Great whites are known to lift their heads out of water to survey their surroundings, a behavior called “spy-hopping.”

Photograph by Brandon Cole Marine Photography/AlamyContrary to belief, sharks need to eat. The preferred diet of the great white shark is marine mammals that have large stores of fat or blubber. Great whites have been known to hunt in areas with large seal and sea-lion populations. They also will feed on other fish such as tuna, salmon, & mackerel, sea turtles, birds, other sharks, and blubber from whale carcasses. Nonetheless, they will eat just about anything if they are starving.

Carcharodon megalodon (Megalodon Megalodon) to...

Great white sharks are the world’s largest predatory shark at the top of the apex. The largest great white documented is twenty-four feet in length. The average great white is fifteen feet in length, can be up to 7500 with fifty-six teeth, seven rows. They have a pointed snout, with black eyes that roll back into the head for protection as they attack. The skeleton’s composed of cartilage, the reason we do not find fossils of great whites, only their teeth.

Life spans of a great white estimate at 30 years of age. They don’t mature until fifteen years of age and will not birth pups till then, which is why it’s nearly impossible to get back a healthy population into the marine bionetwork. Not a lot is known about how Great Whites breed due to the fact that these sharks are solitary creatures that constantly search the ocean for food.

Keep in mind, when a person swims, surfs, scuba dives, or enjoys any other activity in our great ocean, it’s certain that you are entering into another world that’s inhabited by wild creatures who have instincts to either eat or protect and will kill indiscriminately. This vast environment is the home of over one million plants and animals and scientist say each one relies on the other to  keep up a perfect symbiotic order.

We cannot go on and allow people to slaughter the oceans main predator. The ripple effect of losing these prehistoric fish, that have existed for over 350 million years, will be catastrophic in our own ecosystem someday. Kill the ocean, destroy the planet.

1 Comment

  1. Sorry about taking so long to post. This one took a lot of research and I wanted to get it right. Great Whites are somewhat of a passion of mine, and I wanted to represent the essence of their beauty. I hope you enjoy this article and remember nothing on this awesome planet of ours deserves to be eradicated. If one ecosystem is destroyed it affects life on earth as we know it.


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