The most important thing you can do to help sharks is learn about sharks and how different human activities put them in jeopardy. By educating yourself on the current conservation issues facing sharks and marine life you can more accurately share this information with others. Helping to teach others about sharks might inspire them to also speak up for sharks when it comes to supporting conservation measures. The more people that know the truth about the importance and reality of sharks, the better.
Obviously a great place to start is by not consuming any shark meat. However, there are more products than just shark meat on the market. Shark cartilage and oils are found in a range of products from beauty items (sometimes called squalene) to nutrition supplements. So before consuming any product, make sure it does not use any shark derived product. By boycotting shark products, you will reduce market demand, causing companies to stop killing sharks to make these products. Take it a step further and let the community know about those companies selling shark derived products and send the company the HelpSaveSharks letter.
Commercial fishing negatively impacts sharks and marine life in many ways.
- It reduces the populations of their food sources, especially sharks and animals that rely on bony fish as their primary food source.
-Sharks are often killed as a byproduct of commercial fishing (referred to as bycatch.) Sharks are also attracted to the movement of the trapped animals, and may try to feed on them, getting caught and strangling in the net. They may also be accidentally caught by fisherman looking for other seafood. So by simply reducing or stopping your consumption of seafood, you can reduce the number of sharks killed each year. Industrial fishing also discards significant amounts of fishing line and rope that leads to entanglement (these are called ghost nets) Around 50% of all marine debris originates from the commercial fishing industry.
Another threat to sharks and other marine species is trash and other pollution. With the massive plastic gyres around the world sharks and other marine life can mistake garbage for food or become entangled in floating debris. Plastic is also often consumed by the marine species that sharks eat, So sharks will eventually consume non-food products which can lead to illness and death. Industrial pollution and the dumping or discharge of chemicals into the ocean especially around coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves kills shark foraging habitats and potential shark nurserys. Pollutants are also absorbed into the systems of many species (and humans) and as an organism is consumed by subsequent predators the top predators bio accumulate high levels of toxins which can have reproductive and other health implications.
Industrial fisheries often lose fishing lines and nets that continue to kill essentially forever. So please consider what your consumer choices are supporting and what their impact is on the environment.
Organize a reef, beach, stream, river, or park clean up and carefully remove fishing line from corals wherever possible to help prevent entanglement. Every effort adds up.
Use a reusable water bottle, reusable bag, and other reuse items as much as possible so that they don't end up harming nature.
Shark diving is a great way to protect local shark species. Governments and locals alike are much more likely to set up conservation zones wherever sharks bring tourism revenue into an area. There’s a variety of dives you can do for any skill level and interest. Whether you go cage diving with Great White Sharks or simply snorkeling with Nurse Sharks, shark tourism will help support local conservation efforts and local economies.
Social media is a powerful tool to spread awareness about sharks and shark conservation fast. Whenever you see a time sensitive call to action to speak up for sharks and support conservation please 1st: Research the subject to make sure you have the whole story and facts. 2nd: Repost, share, sign the petition, or whatever it is and encourage others to do the same.
Teachers and students love guest speakers or to hear more about ways they can get involved with marine conservation and science, so depending on your knowledge base and comfort, volunteer to do a presentation in a local school, but please use a minimum of three credible sources for all facts shared. Practice your presentation to keep it engaging and limit it to thirty minutes and don't be afraid to say "I don't know but I will do some research and find out and get back to you," if asked a specific question afterwards that you are unsure about. If you are organizing a beach clean up or helping with a specific campaign share it with your local schools to see if they can help out.
If you live near the ocean, or are just on vacation, if you see someone harming a shark, speak up for the shark and ask they to stop and immediately let it go. You can ask nicely and try to educate them about declining shark populations and that many sharks don't survive being caught if they are not released quickly.
Whether they are poking and prodding them, sitting on one they caught, or just not immediately releasing it, if someone is mistreating a shark, you can help defend the shark by asking them to stop and/or reporting the action to local authorities if they are not receptive to your polite requests.
There are several organizations like ours that work tirelessly on shark conservation efforts in different parts of the world. Shark conservation organizations work hard to educate people, stop the slaughter of sharks, remove entanglement, and write or support legislation that protects conservation bills and zones. So if you have some spare time or money, you can donate time or money to shark conservation groups just check out their online presence and try to support those you see doing the most good. Click here to see a list of projects we need volunteers for. Thank you. Click here to shop our benefit line, 100% of the profits go towards materials for our educational outreach program and conservation campaign materials.
Email politicians to tell them that shark conservation is important to you and that you would like them to introduce and support legislation that:
-Will list sharks as protected species
-Ban shark finning (and the sale, trade, and possession of shark fins.)
-Ban shark fishing
-Set up conservation areas in the ocean around your country
-Ban the production, sale, and trade of shark derived products like jaws, oil, cartilage, meat, etc.
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