By Hermoine Macura-Noble
Special to The Times Kuwait
Tomorrow, the world will come together to celebrate International Shark Day, a day dedicated to honoring and raising awareness about these magnificent creatures that inhabit our oceans. Observed on July 14th every year, Shark Day aims to educate and inspire people to appreciate the vital role that sharks play in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems.
However today, sharks are excessively caught for their meat, fins, and oil-rich livers, and they also suffer from accidental bycatch. Climate change and habitat loss further disrupt their life cycles and prey availability due to rising ocean temperatures, coral reef destruction, and pollution. Furthermore, the negative image perpetuated by the media, influenced by movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and The Reef, fuels fear and reduces public support for shark conservation efforts.
According to Shark Trust’s CEO Paul Cox, 100 million sharks are killed in fisheries in a single year. “The biggest threat to sharks comes from the impact of excessive and poorly managed fisheries. One-third of the 1200 species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction due to overfishing…We’ve worked for many years to advocate for change and our latest campaign – the Big Shark Pledge – gives everyone an opportunity to demonstrate their support for an end to overfishing on the high seas. Every voice matters if we want a healthy future for our ocean,” adds Cox.
One of the other critical roles that sharks play is that of apex predators. As the top of the food chain, they help regulate the populations of other marine species, maintaining a balance that is crucial for healthy oceans. By controlling the populations of prey species, sharks prevent ecological imbalances and ensure the overall well-being of the marine ecosystem.
While there are over a thousand different shark and ray species, they all play a crucial and unique role in the ocean. Larger sharks, such as the great white and tiger sharks, are apex predators that shape prey species and the ecosystem they inhabit. Meanwhile, smaller sharks play a crucial role in controlling populations of marine animals, ensuring balance and preventing over abundance. By maintaining balanced food webs and supporting the growth of smaller species, sharks contribute significantly to the overall biodiversity and resilience of the oceanic ecosystem.
Habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change are also contributing to the decline of shark populations. Destruction of mangroves and coral reefs, pollution from coastal development and industrial activities, and the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification, all pose significant challenges to the survival of sharks.
International Shark Day provides an opportunity to shed light on these issues and inspire conservation efforts. Many organizations, marine parks, and educational institutions organize events and activities to raise awareness about the importance of shark conservation. These activities include public talks, beach cleanups, art exhibits, film screenings, and interactive programs that allow people to learn more about sharks and their conservation needs.
In recent years, there has been a growing global movement to protect sharks. Many countries have implemented stricter regulations on shark fishing, banned shark finning, and established marine protected areas where these creatures can thrive. Conservation organizations are working tirelessly to research shark populations, promote sustainable fishing practices, and educate local communities about the importance of sharks for healthy oceans. In the private sector, many companies are also choosing to support the effort by pledging funds.
“As a company named Surfshark, we deeply empathize with sharks and feel devastated by the alarming rate at which these magnificent creatures are being lost each year. The media’s portrayal of sharks in a negative light only aggravates this issue, contributing to the looming extinction of various shark species. By signing the Big Shark Pledge, we hope to raise awareness on this issue and inspire more individuals to actively protect and preserve the survival of the shark population. Going forward, we aspire to make it our continuous effort to work with shark awareness and make contributions towards their conservation on an annual basis”, says SurfShark spokeswoman, Gabriele Racaityte-Krasauske.
Individuals can also contribute to shark conservation efforts in several ways by firstly supporting organizations working towards shark conservation through donations or volunteer work. Consumers can also make responsible seafood choices by avoiding shark products and opting for sustainable seafood options. Additionally, spreading awareness about the importance of sharks among friends, family, and on social media can help dispel misconceptions and inspire others to take action.
On this International Shark Day, let us celebrate these magnificent creatures and acknowledge their critical role in maintaining the health of our oceans. By working together to protect sharks and their habitats, we can ensure a brighter future for these incredible predators and the entire marine ecosystem they call home. Let us strive for a world where sharks are respected, valued, and conserved for generations to come.
By Hermoine Macura-Noble
The first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East and Founder of US-based 501c3 charity – The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more from our Contributing Editor, you can follow her on Instagram, here.