When you think of the ocean, do you think of sand or sharks? If you’re like many people, you probably think of both, but worry more about the sharks than the sand. It’s fairly common; even people who know that sharks are not out there planning their next attack on humans keep a watchful eye on the horizon when swimming at the beach with their families.
Movies Make People More Fearful
There are some people who have been scared silly by the silly movies and television shows depicting sharks as ferocious beasts who long for man-flesh and won’t be satisfied unless they have their fill of it! This, of course, is sensationalized to pique the interest of those who are not familiar with the truth about all shark species. The truth is, many of the sharks of the world are harmless to humans, though humans are harmful to them. Many sharks are endangered and some could possible become extinct if these overfishing practices continue.
Extinction Isn’t Such A Good Idea
For those who fear sharks, total extinction might sound like a good idea. We shudder to even contemplate the fact! But there are some who might feel a sense of relief when they think about never having to scan the waters during a tropical vacation again. No more sharks, no more problems, right? Think again. If all shark species were to become extinct, there would be a horrible backlash on the ecosystem and the environment.
The Most Important Role
All shark species play an important role in the oceans. They are at the top of the food chain, which means that they have a lot of responsibility in how the oceans function. For instance, sharks often eat the old, slow, or sick fish, which keeps the overall population healthy and strong. By eating the sick and weak fish, as well as the carcasses that liter the ocean floor, they can actually prevent the spread of diseases and outbreaks that could disseminate the entire fish population. By leaving the strongest fish to repopulate, the end result is a larger number of healthy fish.
The Story Of The Tiger Shark And The Sea Grass
Though all shark species are important, one example of shark that has a lot to do with the function of the sea is the Tiger Shark. These sharks love to hunt in shallow bay waters, which is where you’ll find sea grass. Sea grass is important for the earth’s climate because it pulls carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Turtles and sea cows know that Tiger Sharks frequent the sea grass, so they often avoid these areas to avoid becoming shark lunch. Due to this, the sea grass becomes long and lush, providing shelter for small fish and shellfish that people like to catch. If sharks were taken away from the planet, the turtles and sea cows would eat the sea grass, depleting it down to nothing. Result: less atmospheric protection for the world and less small fish and shellfish for the fisherman.
Other Examples Of Disaster When All Species Of Shark Are Eliminated
- Goodbye Coral Reef. Coral reefs are amazingly beautiful and important to the ocean’s balance. Take sharks away from the coral reefs and you’ll bring in other large, predatory fish who will increase and thrive. These fish will then feast upon the herbivories; without herbivories, algae grows and expands, posing a great danger to the coral reef. This can lead to its extinction.
- Farewell Fisheries. A decrease in sharks will always mean an increase in other populations. One study in North Carolina showed that the ray populations increased after a loss in Great Whites. The increase in rays meant more food was needed to satisfy them, so they ate all of the bay scallops in that region. The loss of bay scallops forced one fishery to close. The rays moved on to the next bivalve they could find.
- Off The Menu. Less sharks means more predators who feast on ocean dwellers such as clams. In fact, some restaurants in certain areas are forced to remove the very popular clam chowder from their menus due to the lack of available quahogs. This brings down the revenue of the restaurants.
- The End Of Many. Without sharks, the mid-level predators increase and eat most of the algae eaters. The algae will then grow and thrive. We’ve already discussed the coral reef problem, but algae also extends to the oceans overall. The increase in algae will make the waters slimy and dense, reducing sunlight penetration. This can kill off thousands of species over time.
- Loss Of Revenue. There are many businesses all over the world who makes money providing shark dives and underwater tours. Without sharks, there would be nothing to observe, so these business would close. This can affect the economy of many small villages where the main income is shark tours. And small-town economics spread to larger cities all over the world. One Reef Shark can bring in $250,000 in tourism over time, but only holds a value of only $50 when caught by a fisherman.
There are plenty reasons why all shark species are important and detrimental to the good health and productivity of the planet, let alone just the oceans. Too many sharks are endangered and face extinction. Let’s take away the fear and start realizing just how amazing and important these water-wonders truly are.