Sharks have their bets stacked against them. There is disrupting tourism, teens trying to catch rides on them, and of course shark fishing. They don’t have it easy. At least, we don’t make it easy for them. But we could. So, here are a few small but significant ways you can help save sharks.
Educate yourself and find a voice to talk about the dangers sharks are experiencing. Reading this post is a perfect way to start. Not that we’re biased. We’ve got a couple of points that will help you navigate where to look for shark products. What to avoid in order to save a shark and what you should pay attention to.
DO NOT EAT SHARKS
Let’s start with the basics: do not eat products that feature shark in any way. No shark fin soup. No shark cartilage. No flake. This is an easy way to save sharks. It estimated that shark fishing kills around 100 million sharks a year. Fishermen are known to cut off and use the fins and discard the rest of the shark. Often alive, the sharks are thrown back into the ocean to bleed out. The leftovers from a bowl of shark fin soup are a lot bigger than you can see in front of you. Be aware of Flake. Flake is often sold as 'fish and chips'. Flake is in fact, not fish, but shark! Don't eat Flake.
BE A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER
Be conscientious of the food you buy. A lot of fisheries use nets that trap sharks and lead to fatalities. Bycatch is the official name for the extra sharks and fish that get caught. Look into the brand you’re buying your tuna and salmon from for sushi night. Does the brand use shark-friendly nets and fishing practices? Every product you buy in a supermarket is a vote to keep that product in a store. Make sure it’s a good choice. For you and for the sharks.
Look out for the ingredient squalene in your beauty products. Squalene comes from shark livers. Deep-sea sharks use oil to oxygenize more efficiently. It is a survival necessity for them. Humans use it in products targeting the improvement of skin and muscles. Think sunscreen, wrinkle reducers, moisturizers, lipsticks, muscle building supplements, etc. Don’t trade a shark’s skin for your own. There’s not a whole lot of beauty in that. Luckily, not all squalene requires killing a shark. The ingredient can also be extracted from olives, sugarcane, and other cruelty-free sources. A company’s policy will reveal where they get their squalene from. If you buy cruelty-free, you’re saving a shark.
Sharks are gutted and skinned, and the hide is cut and sent to a tannery. What they’re making is shark skin leather. The practice prevails in Mexico and the United States. When in Mexico, save a shark, have tequila instead.
Shark cartilage is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, arthritis, rheumatism, eczema, acne. The list goes one. This is a tough one. It is appealing to use medicine. Whatever it takes to beat cancer, or to move painlessly. No definitive results prove the benefit of using shark cartilage in these medicines. Make sure the medicine you’re taking to relieve pain, doesn’t cause pain elsewhere.
CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION EFFORTS
One of the most fun ways to save sharks: adopt one. Tiger, hammerhead, whale, or great white sharks. Sure, they’re not as cuddly as dogs, but they definitely need your help. Adopting a shark means funding research to help save them. A couple of organizations that offer adoption are The National Wildlife Federation and World Wild Life (WWF). Now, of course, you’ll want to see your shark out in the wild. If you book a tour to swim with sharks, know where to go. Efforts are in place to save sharks through ecotourism. You can save another shark by swimming with one.
Sharks are disappearing faster than they can recover from. We have a mask of fear around sharks that helps hide a lot of the problems that we need to discuss. Educate yourself. Watch conservation documentaries. Don’t eat shark fin soup. Buy conscientiously. Adopt a shark. Love sharks. Save sharks.
Written by: Constance Van Rheenen