A group of shark attack survivors have joined together in what many would think of as an unlikely and ironic mission -- to conserve and restore the world's dwindling shark population. The survivors work in association with the Pew Environmental Group. Dubbed Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation, the group was formed in 2009 and is headed by Debbie Salamone, a shark attack survivor.
"No one else can speak up for sharks like we can," Salamone explained. "When we gather as a group, people are missing arms and legs... we give a very special voice to animals that are being killed at a very detrimental rate."
The obvious question, though, is why? Indeed why would Salamone and fellow members of the Shark Attack conservation group want to protect the very animal that attacked them? All members of this unique conservation group were first and foremost ocean lovers who became shark attack survivors. The experience was obviously traumatic, but the attacks did not break the connection each of them had with the ocean. If anything, more than ever, members recognized the critical role that their attackers play in maintaining healthy marine ecosystems and wanted to protect these top predators.
"This [attack] happened to all of us and it put us in a position to be able to do something more to protect something that we loved from the beginning," Salamone explained.
When asked what she sees as the biggest threat to shark populations, Salamone points to fishing. Pew has released a statistic stating that up to 73 million sharks are killed every year just for their fins. "Fisherman can fetch up to $300 per pound for the fins, and that is driving them to hunt some of these species to extinction."
In the past few years Salamone and the Shark Attack group has pressed the U.S. Congress to close loopholes in the shark-finning ban. They've also gone to the United Nations and asked member states to commit to international agreements protecting shark populations.
Most recently, the Shark Attack group helped collect samples for a study, which revealed that endangered shark species were being served in soup in the United States.
That these shark attack survivors have chosen to add their voice to shark conservation might be ironic to some, but undoubtedly they are inspirational to all.
"My hope is that we will have abundant sharks roaming the seas, as we've had for millions of years," says Salamone.
Watch the video below to hear some of the Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation tell their survival stories and talk about sharks:
Discovery will be premiering a show that highlights the Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation during Shark Week -- "Shark Fight" will premier Wednesday, August 15 9 p.m. EST.