Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sharks el amor!

One of my fondest undersea experiences occurred back in 1982 while I was diving at Hornby Island, B.C. It was my first visit to the island and I had ventured there to dive with the island's famed six-gill sharks. In fact, this was my first attempt at shark diving. I can remember being extremely excited as I had studied and admired sharks since I was a very young boy.

While I was putting on my drysuit, I was thinking how far it seemed I had travelled from the time I stood alone in front of my fifth grade class at Regina Public School in Ottawa to deliver my interest talk on sharks. Yes, back then I knew my sharks all right. I was a virtual fountain of knowledge about tiger sharks, blue sharks, bull sharks, lemon sharks, hammerhead sharks and, of course, what kind of shark expert would I have been if I could not sermonize about the infamous great white shark. And this was all several years before the movie, Jaws, created its own kind of shark frenzy by capitalizing on the general public's inherent fear of sharks.

Sadly, in recent times, the world's shark population have come under increasing pressure from humans. Some species are now threatened with extinction, and some sharks have entirely disappeared from reefs and open ocean regions where they were once found in large numbers. It is estimated that one third of the more than 400 shark species are threatened with extinction or are close to being threatened. Sarah Fowler of the World Conservation Union has said, "Fisheries can remove 50 to 90% of an entire shark stock in only 10 years" Fowler estimates that 38 million to 70 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone.

Suffice to say, the sea's entire ecosystem will be negatively impacted if sharks are removed from their position at the top of the ocean's food chain.

Do not eat shark fin soup!