Ever since I got certified as a scuba diver back in 2008 (or, what I called, my ‘wife-repelling activity’ until I manage to convince her to get certified too) I’ve had non-diving family, friends and colleagues take an interest in what I do. More often than not, taking an interest leads to a number of questions, some can be subjectively “nice,” such as: “WOW, how can you float easily to the surface after a dive, since you are (you know), overweight?” Other questions are less so, more along the lines of: “Aren’t you afraid that the sharks will bite/eat you when you are down there?” To which I usually answer, no, in fact, I wish we encounter more sharks on our dives! Then I see that classic “say what, now?” look on their faces.
I can’t really be too critical of these people, after all, I myself once wore that same look on my face when I asked my more-experienced dive buddy, and I got the same answer. The difference is that his reply actually made me even more curious to go down and see the world down there. Today, I know so much more about sharks than when I started. At least I know this: We, humans, are NOT on their menu! This only means one thing to me, sharks never attack us humans in order to eat us, they attacks us because they are territorial animals and we are invading their privacy with our weird-looking bodies that come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Not to mention the stuff we wear, ride, blow air bubbles from, when underwater and even poke to kill with, just for the fun of it! Other reasons they attack swimmers are believed to be confusion over what these “creatures” are, some might even confuse surfboarders for one of the shark’s favorite preys: Seals! The confusion stems from the fact that swimmers and surfboarders are silhouettes when the sun is coming from the sky and sharks are looking up, again, it’s because they don’t know who we are. I’m not saying that sharks don’t attack, but they are “wild-animals” and we are supposedly “intelligent-humans” for a reason!
So, even with these possibilities, how many people get attacked by sharks every year? What’s this fuss all about? Let’s see.
Hmmmmmm …. Well, if that’s really the case, then why are people so afraid of sharks? I have only one word to you, MEDIA! Yep, it’s the MEDIA! I don’t just mean TV reports and news articles, I also mean movies, games, billboards, Facebook ads, and the list goes on. Let me ask you this, how many times in a lifetime you think you would read this headline anywhere: “Man falls off bicycle, dies.” Has Hollywood ever made a movie about a group of tourists who are attacked and killed by dogs? On the other hand, imagine this: “Don’t let debt eat you up” with a photo of the Big White Shark’s jaws wide open, sounds familiar? Ring a bell? That’s what I thought!!
So, if that’s what sharks are doing to us, what are we actually doing to them in return? Let’s see. There’s an entire multi-hundred-million US dollar business called “Shark Finning.” According to Wikipedia, “Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins while the remainder of the living shark is discarded in the ocean. Sharks returned to the ocean without their fins are often still alive; unable to move effectively, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators. Shark finning at sea enables fishing vessels to increase profitability and increase the number of sharks harvested, as they only have to store and transport the fins, by far the most profitable part of the shark” .
But wait, that’s not all, we didn’t even account for the pollution we are causing to our beautiful blue oceans, which, passively or actively, leads to the death of ocean creatures by the thousands. Sharks, being one of the most important parts of the aquatic food chain ecosystem, are effected as well. Between the status of “vulnerable” for whale sharks and “endangered” for the great hammerheads, we are effectively watching the numbers of sharks getting lower by the day. What are we really doing about it? Who’s wrongly accused? Who’s the victim here? It’s time to hold on for a moment and think …
By Momen Khaiti,
Sr. PR & Media Specialist, Khalifa University