Recent movies like the highly sensationalized Sharknado and the not-so-recent, Jaws series tend to villainize sharks. The truth is sharks are phenomenal creatures at the absolute top of the food chain and so much of their makeup is a mystery.
As with all mysteries, that which we do not fully understand, we have a tendency to fear. Sadly, that fear has cost many sharks their lives over the years. These beautiful and majestic animals were slaughtered by the thousands after Jaws opened in theaters. This was much to the dismay of Peter Benchley, the author of the original book Jaws, who later went on to advocate for shark conservation after he witnessed the radical actions some people took after seeing the movie. Mr. Benchley was quoted as saying, "The sea is worthy more of respect and protection than of fear and exploitation." The only way to protect the sea is to protect the entire ecosystem which is something he seemed to understand when he said, "Save the sharks and we can save the oceans." Sharks are key in protecting our oceans -- they are, essentially, masters of that domain in many respects.
Sharks are not predatory toward humans. It is not in their nature. If they attack humans, it is often by mistake. When we swim in the ocean, we are the visitors in their home. Quite frankly, more cows and/or deer kill people inadvertently by walking out into the middle of a dark road and causing car accidents than there are shark attacks every year. Of those shark attacks, very few are fatal. Of course, that is of little consolation to those on the receiving end of those attacks and I do not mean to make light of their suffering because it is beyond comprehension. I just mean to illustrate the rarity of those types of occurrences. By comparison, the number of sharks killed by people every year is astounding.
These creatures have been around for more years than we are even entirely certain. There is a great deal we can learn from them. There may even be hidden cures in their DNA that we are unaware of if they have been able to outlive so many other species for so long. Perhaps, instead of fearing them, we should learn to revere them -- and not just during Shark Week! I hope others will learn to share in my awe of sharks and appreciate them for all the gifts they have to offer, not just to the ocean but, to society as a whole.
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