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6 Ways Divers Can Help to Save Sharks from Extinction

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photo of a blue shark underwater.

Sharks are on the brink of extinction, but scuba divers can help!

© Mark Conlin, 2012
Sharks are top predators. With their powerful bodies, great size, and strong jaws, sharks have little to fear in the wild . . . except for humans. Human consumption of sharks has forced sharks to the brink of extinction. Now, as divers, it is our turn to help sharks survive.

What Can Scuba Divers Do to Help Save the Sharks?:

When Scuba Diving:
• Observe sharks, but do not harass them.
Despite the negative portrayal of sharks in "Jaws" and other movie series, sharks are sensitive creatures. Touching, chasing, or riding a shark can cause it unnecessary stress, and may cause the shark to try to defend itself.

•Set Entangled Sharks Free.
Many sharks species must swim continuously to force water through their gills. Without forward motion, a shark will suffocate. If a diver encounters a shark entangled in a net, cutting it free will save the shark’s life. Just be sure that doing so does not endanger the divers by forcing them into decompression or into a low on air situation. If a diver is unable to free a trapped shark, he should inform his dive guide or operation so that someone else may can help the shark.

• Report Illegal Finning Activity.
Shark finning is prohibited in many countries. However, many countries do not have the resources to police their waters and enforce the law against shark finning. If a diver observes finning activity, he should not approach the fishermen. Instead he should gather data about the incident and the fishing vessel, and report this information to his dive shop or local authorities.
Out of the Water:
• Do not consume shark products.
Do not encourage shark finning and fishing by purchasing shark products. This includes shark fin soup, jewelry, leather and all other products. Yes, the shark that contributed to the product for sale is already dead, but by purchasing shark products, a person create a demand. More sharks will be fished to replace the items sold.

Be a Research Assistant.
Sharks travel extremely long distances. This makes keeping track of their numbers difficult. To aid researchers, several websites offer divers the opportunity to upload shark sightings to online databases. By including the details of a shark sighting (such as species, location, and date of the sighting) a diver can support the effort to better understand current shark populations. Here are two websites that accept shark sighting information:
Earth Dive
• Tropical Research and Conservation Center
Assist Shark Conservation Organizations by Donating Money or Volunteering Time.
Shark research, tracking, and conservation cost money. Donate money to support shark conservation organizations as they fight for the survival of shark populations. If unable to donate, participate in campaigns by signing petitions in favor of saving sharks, or volunteer with conservation organizations. Two organizations that accept donations are:
• REEF
• Oceana

The Take-Home Message About Sharks and Shark Conservation::

When a shark smiles, we see teeth, rows and rows of sharp teeth! A shark's appearance makes portraying it as a vicious man-hunter easy, and makes for good plot lines in movies. However, sharks are generally misrepresented in the media. In reality, humans have little to fear from sharks, while sharks have much to fear from humans. For example, shark finning is an especially cruel, unsustainable practice. Legislation prohibiting shark finning and fishing is frequently unenforced, as enforcement resources are not available in many countries. This is unfortunate, as sharks are crucial to the well-being of the marine ecosystem and are close to extinction. However, divers and their friends can help! Spread the word about the important role of sharks in the ocean and do not contribute to their demise by purchasing shark products.

Part 1: Shark Basics and Trivia | Part 3: 6 Ways to Save Sharks From Extinction | Home: Sharks Main Page

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