Villains of the sea

Posted by on Jun-6-2009

I had recently seen a heart shattering documentary called ‘Shark Water’. It was produced by Horizon films and exposed the cruelty of man towards shark.

After the film ‘Jaws’, sharks became the ‘universal bad-guy’ of the sea and the films and cartoons which followed, celebrated this image. Sharks were stamped as the ‘ultimate predator’, cold blooded , brutal and evil of all carnivores.

The truth is that while attacks do occur, and are a potential threat to humans, they don’t deserve a very prominent place on our list of worries. Bees, wasps, and snakes are responsible for far more deaths each year than sharks. It is estimated that 50 to 75 people are attacked by sharks every year and out of this only 8 to 12 are fatal. The human assault on shark populations is 100 times greater.

Sharks are victimized by an ever more efficient global fishing industry, which sometimes operates with little regulation It is estimated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization , that humans catch one billion pounds of sharks each year. Sharks are mainly killed for their meat. In some countries, shark meat is a major source of protein in people’s diets.

Sharks are killed not only for their meat, but for their ‘fins’. Shark fin is believed to possess medicinal value and having it regularly improves health. This belief has increased the value of shark fin. It costs about $25 per pound, which is much more expensive than meat. Sometimes the sharks are caught just for their fins. They are dragged aboard fishing vessels, the fins are sliced off with out killing the fish and then thrown back bleeding into the ocean, doomed to die. Even the fishermen, who catch sharks unintentionally, do the same to them. There is a great demand for fins and there are no effective regulations, which worsen the problem.

Shark skeletons are made of cartilage, and shark cartilage pills are advertised as cure-alls for any number of ailments and diseases. The medical value of cartilage is yet to be proved.

Shark carcasses serve other purposes as well. Different parts of the animal are put to commercial use in products ranging from cosmetics to hemorrhoid cream.

The popularity of shark products means that the animals are being pulled from our oceans faster than ever before. Sharks as predators, play a very important role in maintaining the balance of  the ‘Marine Eco System’ and reduction in shark population will adversely affect the equilibrium.

Being a mariner and knowing about the sea, I often wonder who is the ‘ultimate predator’, who is the real ‘bad guy’, who is cold blooded, brutal and evil of all carnivores?

Sharks  or……..?????

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