One of the most misunderstood inhabitants of the ocean are sharks, who have been demonized by movies like Jaws, but are these animals really ruthless killers?
The perfect predator
Sharks have inhabited the seas since the time of the dinosaurs, reaching the present day with hardly any changes, which means that they are perfectly adapted to their environment.
These impressive animals have highly developed sensory organs.
Sharks, unlike humans, have 7 senses: vision, smell, touch, taste and electromagnetism. The latter is due to the Lorenzini ampullae, which allow them to detect electric fields. In addition, like the vast majority of fish, they are able to detect pressure changes thanks to the lateral line.
Located at the top of the food chain, sharks are responsible for maintaining the health of their ecosystem. This is because they remove injured or sick animals from the environment, allowing only the strongest to reproduce.
Several scientists have verified the special importance of the presence of sharks in having healthy coral reefs.
Who is the real threat?
Sadly, we tend to pay more attention to their sharp teeth than to the important role they play. However, in 2020 there were 57 unprovoked shark attacks and 10 deaths, while each year, humans kill more than 100 million sharks through practices such as finning, which consists of cutting off their fins and then dumping the bodies into the ocean, where they die drowned.
Shark fins are mainly used for shark fin soup, which in China is considered a prestigious dish. However, this soup is toxic, as shark tissues accumulate large amounts of mercury, a heavy metal that is not removed naturally.
What can I do about it?
Currently, more and more people are willing to protect sharks, unfortunately many do not know how to do it.
It is not necessary to jump into the sea or be a diver to want to take care of these animals. Some more suitable options are:
- Get informed. Animals cannot speak to defend themselves, so we must be the ones to show what they really are and how important they are. To help with this purpose PADI has created the PADI Aware Shark Conservation course, suitable for anyone who is interested, whether you are a diver or not.
- Participate in protection movements. Something as simple as signing a petition can make a big difference. Currently, the Sea Shepherd company has launched a proposal to ban finning in Europe. (https://www.seashepherdglobal.org/latest-news/citizens-initiative-ban-finning-europe/)
- Consume responsibly. Do not buy products from sharks. Within this point are included both souvenirs and cosmetics and food products.
In Tenerife it is rare to meet sharks. However, the Canary Islands are home to a currently endangered species of shark, the Angelshark.