10 Reasons to Celebrate Sharks, Not Fear Them

It’s really not fair that sharks get such a bad rap. Here in the United States, we’re much more likely to be killed by a bee, dog or even a cow than a shark, at least based on statistics from 2001 to 2013.

Here are facts that are truly scary: While sharks only killed one human per year during that time frame, humans kill 100 million sharks each year, including millions that are killed only for their fins. Because of this, more than 140 shark species may become extinct.

Instead of killing and fearing sharks, we should celebrate them for their many benefits to the environment and people, including the following.

1. Since sharks are at the top of the food chain, they help keep the ecosystem in balance by deliberately preying on sick and weak fish. “Sharks groom many populations of marine life to the right size so that those prey species don’t cause harm to the ecosystem by becoming too populous,” notes Shark Savers, an international group advocating for an end to the slaughter of sharks and manta rays.

2. By killing sick fish, sharks also help stop the spread of disease that could devastate other species. At the same time, they’re helping to strengthen the gene pools of those species. Healthy fish generally reproduce more often than sick ones, so sharks play a part in ensuring larger numbers of healthy fish.

3. Another way sharks help keep the ecosystem in balance is by scaring away sea animals that overgraze on vital seagrass beds. For example, when there were no tiger sharks around them in Australia, sea turtles would graze on the healthiest seagrass beds, destroying these habitats. But when the sharks showed up, the sea turtles spread out, and the seagrass beds were spared.

4. Sharks protect coral reefs by eating predatory fish, like groupers, that feed on herbivores. The lack of herbivores allows destructive macroalgae to expand and impact the survival of the reef system.

5. Sharks help clean the oceans by eating dead animals and plants. Along with whales, sharks store a lot of carbon in their bodies, so when they die naturally, the carbon moves with their carcasses to the depths of the ocean, away from the atmosphere at the surface.

6. Do you like to eat lobster and crab? Sharks like to eat their predators, which is helping to prevent shellfish from becoming extinct. In fact, sharks are at the top of all the intricate food webs that make up the ocean ecosystem. Scientists consider them to be a keystone species, meaning that if they were to disappear, the entire ecosystem would collapse.

7. Sharks have very strong immune systems and are resistant to many cancers. Could this help lead to a cure for cancer in humans? A recent study found unique modifications in their immunity genes that may provide them with the ability to fight cancer. This new understanding will likely lead to more discoveries, “some of which could potentially translate into human medical benefit,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., director of the Nova Southeastern University Save Our Seas Shark Research Center.

8. Sharks could also lead the way to a cure for heart disease, thanks to anticoagulant compounds in their blood that are currently being studied by scientists.

9. Sharks are able to swim with speed and efficiency because of the denticles on their skin. These small, toothlike structures reduce drag and turbulence as sharks move through the water. Using 3D printing, scientists have been able to create artificial shark skin that has the potential of improving everything from swimsuits to airplanes.

10. Sharks have been around for at least 400 million years – 100 million years before dinosaurs first appeared on land — and are the oldest living vertebrae. They can help us learn more about the origin of humans and other vertebrate species.

Photo credit: Leszek Leszczynski/Flickr

101 comments

Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Sharks are wonderful creatures.

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Natalie G
Natalie Gabout a year ago

We have to protect sharks! Thank you for sharing.

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bob P
bob Pabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

To MONA M : Fully agree with you. I may not think about a possible encounter with one of these giants. They may be very gentle, but it are predators. However, we MUST not FORGET that the seas / oceans are their habitat. We do NOT have to right to take over any and every spot on the whole world and pretend it is OURS..... We have already taken away so much land from other species. Rainforests are decimated by us, killing millions of animals, big and small ones. And now we would like to be the OWNERS of the sea as well, for deep sea diving, or for "farming" specific fish species. We must stop taking for granted that everywhere we set foot, we own the place. The number of humans is growing each year with terrible speed. In a couple of decades, we will have doubled the actual number of people. This must be stopped. There is enough for each of us, people and animals alike. But we must stop to expand and animals must be given the change to breed more.... that's ALL !!

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Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckxabout a year ago

Sharks are totally misunderstood. And the movie JAWS did a lot of wrong things with regard to our vision on sharks. We only consider them to be our biggest enemy. And that everywhere we got in the sea, they will UNDOUBTEDLY attack us, and we will not survive. In the meantime, scientists found out that surfers are attacked because from below, the surfing board looks a lot like a seal, and that is one their favorite foods. Figures indeed confirm now that the number of deadly victims from shark attacks are ridiculously low. Certainly when we compare these with the number of sharks that we killing each year, for the most stupid reason, viz. shark fin soup..... There is so little known about the various species of sharks, that we need decades and decades to observe their behavior, their mating / breeding habits, how they interact with their new borns, etc... Why would we allow people to kill animals we hardly know something about. We are already doing so with the rainforests. Scientist tell us that they are convinced that there are still a lot of creatures which we have to discover, let stand that we know something about them. Some frogs, insects etc.. are to be studied to see whether their venom can be used for humans as medicines for cancer or other diseases. We are so damned stupid that we are throwing away a lot of information that could be most valuable to mankind. Therefore, NO SINGLE shark should still be killed as from right n

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA Rabout a year ago

Vip reminders. Petition signed & shared. Thank you!

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Julie C
Julie Cabout a year ago

Sharks are the wolves of the sea--they're totally cool animals that are misunderstood because of fictional stories. Each plays an important part in their ecosystem and each is necessary to keep a balanced system for other plants and animals to thrive. Their potential harm to humans is far outsized by dramatic media and fictional accounts.

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Carl R
Carl Rabout a year ago

Thanks!!!!

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Georgina M

petition signed tyfs

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Christine S
Christine Stewartabout a year ago

thanks!

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