July 14 is Shark Awareness Shark Day, a day created to dispel myths about sharks and to raise awareness about the importance of sharks to the ocean. It is a day to recognize the great risk of extinction many species of sharks and rays face, and how we can act to save them. Timed around the famous Shark Week by the Discovery Channel and now National Geographic’s Shark Fest, when millions view the thrilling (but tiresome) re-enactments of jaw-gnashing shark attacks and leaping great whites, this day is intended to celebrate these magnificent cartilaginous fish.
It is also a day to inspire action to save sharks from their imminent demise.
Sharks are among the oldest living lineage of species in the ocean, with fossil records dating back at least 420 million years ago. Modern-day sharks have been around for about 100 million years, predating the dinosaurs and even surviving them in the last major extinction event in the Miocene.
Yet today, 1/3 of species are threatened with extinction.
Films like Jaws and more modern popular programming inspire fear and perpetuate the myth that sharks are vicious cold-blooded killers. Of course few things are more awe inspiring than a great white shark in full predation mode, and we are fascinated by the thought of Megalodon, the world’s largest ever predatory fish that consumed swimming dinosaurs and whales, and which may have reached a whopping 60 feet long!
Many native societies, such as the Hawaiian culture who today offer sharks complete protection, have long revered and respected these magnificent marine predators. Unfortunately, our new cultural depictions of sharks on social media and in programs contribute to the fear and stigma surrounding them, and often reinforce a disregard for their importance and the threats facing them. Over the past 50 years shark numbers have declined by more than 70%, with an associated loss to the biodiversity and ocean ecosystems.
How Cool Are Sharks?
- Highly Specialized and Diverse – For over 400 million years sharks have thrived and survived in the ocean, radiating into a wide range of shapes, function and geographical range. With around 1500 species of sharks, skates and rays, this group of cartilaginous fish are highly specialized from the tiny dwarf lantern shark swimming in the deep sea, to the giant whale shark, the largest fish in the oceans. Download a free shark science sheet and learn more about these fascinating and fish!
- Ecosystem Services – Sharks play an integral role in keeping our ocean healthy and ecosystems intact. Sharks eat the sick, the stupid and the slow, maintaining other species populations, controlling disease and shaping healthier genes in their prey populations. Learn about trophic cascades in our film Sharks Stewards of the Reef.
- Power and Beauty – The image of the shark is exploited by companies and sports teams for their quickness, their strength, and their ferocious nature. Yet sharks have an inspirational elegance and consummate evolution few species can match. Few experiences match the beauty and excitement of watching a hammerhead shark or a manta ray swim, and a picture tells a thousand words. View some of ours on Instagram.
- Jobs – Sharks are worth more alive than dead. Divers and photographers from around the world are seeking sharks, and supporting local economies, including people who might make a living fishing them. The island nation of Palau has designated itself a shark sanctuary, and the value of one shark has been estimated to bring in over one million dollars in its lifetime. To contrast that, one set of shark fins is worth around $100 to a fishermen in a one time transaction. Learn how you can see sharks!
- Hope for a Future Ocean – Sharks can be symbols of ocean health and saving sharks can save the oceans, and quite possibly the future of humans. Many species of sharks are under extreme threat of extinction and need urgent action. Positive change is happening through collaboration and action.
Shark Awareness Day aims to both dispel the fear, stigma, and misinformation surrounding sharks and also raise awareness of this creature’s plight, inspiring people all over the world to take action in their defense.
To Shark Stewards every day is Shark Day and we are fighting to protect endangered sharks and rays from extinction through trade regulation, fishing restrictions and increased international protection.
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