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Dealing with Sharks: Human and Shark Interaction

Dealing With Sharks

Dealing with sharks is not something most people are interested in doing. Many humans are either too frightened to go anywhere near a shark, or too mesmerized to do them any harm. But humans are actually the sharks number one predator. The media is known for terrifying people by producing bloodthirsty shark thrillers, and announcing human-shark encounters as if sharks attack individuals regularly. In truth, there are approximately 100 shark attacks every year, and only about 5 of these attacks result in fatalities. On the other hand, humans slay roughly 100 million sharks annually. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the shark slaughtering business, you may be wondering why they are in such high demand. Believe it or not, there are plenty of reasons why so many sharks become human prey.

Sharks and Cosmetics

Many are aware of the fact that various cosmetic companies use parts of sea animals such as whales in their products (if you didn't know that, now you do). However a lot of people do not realize that sharks are also used. In Japan, tiger sharks are exceptionally high in demand, particularly for geisha girls. Many have seen the eye-catching white powder that cover the faces of the lovely geisha girls, however most are unaware of how that powder is actually produced. Believe it or not, the vertebrae of tiger sharks are crushed down into powder that is then applied to the faces of the Japanese geisha girls.

In addition to cosmetic uses, sharks are promoted for women in another popular way. In India, and possibly many other places, it is believed that breast-feeding women should consume the flesh of milk sharks. The meat of a milk shark (Rhizoprionodon acutus) is supposed to aid in women's lactation.

Sharks And Medical Uses

The liver of a shark, which takes up the majority of the space in the shark's body cavity, is undoubtedly plentiful in Vitamin A. For years, sharks have been killed for this precise reason. Although an alternative shark-free process was created for the production of Vitamin A in 1950, they are still fished for their livers. These livers are converted into shark liver oil, and they are used for various medicinal purposes such as hemorrhoid treatments, wound healings, dry skin, joint therapy, vitamin supplements, and they are even used for respiratory health. Shark liver oil is believed to supply human cells with oxygen, thereby giving people more energy. And finally, this oil is also used to enhance people's immune systems.

Other shark-related medicinal uses include anti-blood clotting compounds, and acne treatments. Many may be surprised to hear this, but sharks have aided in countless cornea transplants, and have even been the suppliers of artificial skin for burn patients. Furthermore, sharks have proven to be cancer free. Therefore, people have been researching possible cancer cures through with sharks. Currently, dogfish bladders are being used to decelerate the growth of tumors in humans. While controversial, many are exploring a humane way of dealing with sharks for cures of major diseases, especially cancer.

Sharks for Tools and Jewelry

At this point, I'm sure you have realized that sharks are used for numerous reasons all over the world. Did you know sharks are also sought out for tools? When a person thinks about or looks at a shark, the teeth are one of the most noticeable body parts. The teeth of a shark are capable of biting with a force of over six and a half tons per square inch! Not to mention the fact that a shark's mouth can hold hundreds of teeth at once. For these reasons, people use the teeth of sharks in the same fashion as one would use a knife or a pair of scissors. For example, the people native to Greenland use the teeth of the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) to cut their hair. The natives of Greenland don't just take shark's teeth and discard the rest of the shark however; they take the shark's skin, and use it over their boats in order to enhance the boat's power and strength.

Sharks, particularly shark teeth, are also a prime source for jewelry. Tons of people wear shark tooth necklaces whether they are from actual shark tooth fossils, or artificial shark teeth. However, numerous sharks are killed for the shark-tooth jewelry business. For instance, the teeth of tiger sharks are enormously popular for jewelry all over the world. In Tahiti, a tiger shark's jaw can be worth $200.

Sharks Used For Human Consumption

Some people simply like the way sharks taste. Sharks are eaten all over the world, and are caught by individuals as well as large fishing companies. To those who consume this type of food, dealing with sharks and using them as a food source is of no concern. Shark is actually considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and is a welcome site on a menu in some restaurants.

The number one reason why sharks are human prey, is because of their fins. Although people have no problem eating various parts of a shark, millions of sharks fall victim to what is called "shark finning." In this custom, people actually fish for sharks, take their fins, and then cast off the rest of the shark's body. Particularly in Asia, a pound of shark fins can be sold for $25, and the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup, is often sold for approximately $150 per bowl. This makes shark finning a very profitable business.

Large fishing companies are also known for dealing with sharks in a negative way. Many fisherman kill sharks when they accidentally catch them in the same nets they use to catch other types of fish. In cases like these, the sharks are seldom thrown back into the water, and so they die when they weren't even being sought after.

Shark Fin Soup

Repopulation of Sharks

A female shark can produce up to a few hundred pups in her lifetime. Now to a human, that seems like a lot! However, when you take into account the fact that about 100 million of them are killed annually, and the demand for them is steadily increasing, a few hundred pups per female lifetime really isn't that much. Furthermore, sharks grow relatively slowly, so it can take decades for shark populations to replenish themselves.

What Is Being Done?

Thankfully, there are programs that place restrictions on shark fishing and regulations on dealing with shark encounters, such as when they get caught in fishing nets. While this is a wonderful thing because it slows down the possible endangerment of various species of sharks, the unfortunate factor is that only three countries have taken the initiative to manage shark harvests. Sharks are in danger of over fishing all over the world, and only the United States, Canada, and New Zealand have implemented actual shark management programs. These programs have proven to be exceedingly helpful, and as people learn more and more about sharks, we can only hope that additional laws and systems will be put in place for their protection.

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Global Shark Catch Graph

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