A Plea for the Sharks
I love sharks. I love everything about sharks.
I wish that everyone loved sharks. More importantly though, I just wish that everyone would understand sharks.
Sharks are highly evolved and fascinating creatures that have been gliding through the oceans for some 400 million years. They’ve fallen victim, time after time, to negative portrayals in movies and the media. It breaks my heart every time I see a post that says “Our thoughts going out to the 3 shark bite victims yesterday!” accompanying a photo of a beached shark (cough: @nsbinlet). Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I don’t feel for those people…being bitten by a shark is obviously not something anyone wants to deal with. What I wish people could see, though, is this: it is their ocean!
We can hardly handle playing around in the shallows of the waters that they call home. Yet, they’re so well adapted to their ocean environment that they have special electroreceptor sense organs! The organs are called ampullae of Lorenzini (obviously, after the dude who first described them…) and are basically maze made with cartilage and filled with jelly. They allow sharks to sense electrical and magnetic fields in the water as well as sensing temperature gradients. My point is that they belong in the ocean and we do not.
I spent a month on the island of O’ahu last year and as soon as I arrived I couldn’t wait to get into the ocean. I was excited at the possibility of swimming with dolphins and sea turtles but I was absolutely desperate to swim with sharks. I came across One Ocean Diving and spent a morning with them and their ocean friends, the sharks! Jaun and his team have a passion for the ocean that is truly inspiring and if you’re ever on O’ahu you’ve really got to go out with them!
As you can see, I was literally in the water with the sharks. No cage. We were diving and moving around freely, the sharks coming and going as they pleased. Really, none of them showing very much interest in us at all! One of the parts I appreciated most about the trip was the heavy focus on shark education. These people know everything and anything you could possibly want to know and think to ask about sharks!
There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of human and shark interactions daily that result in nothing more than amazing memories (trust me, I can tell you first hand!). It’s so saddening to realize that the majority of people are terrified of 500 species that inhabit the planet alongside us simply because they don’t have the correct information. And, as a result…the sharks suffer. They really, really, suffer.
There’s a movie that will open your eyes to the horror sharks face on a daily basis, a horror that is much worse than a handful of sharkbites off of a beach in Florida. Please give Sharkwater a try and help everyone understand the truth about our ocean friends.