…Sharks evolved 450 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs, and have survived five major extinctions [Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic and Jurassic]. They range from the 9″ pygmy shark to the 40′ whale shark; most live for between 20 and 30 years (some, like the spiny dogfish, up to 100). Far from being the solitary hunters of mythology, sharks are intelligent, social animals, many living in schools with more complex migration patterns than birds. Out of more than 360 species, only three have been involved in a significant number of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans: the tiger, great white and bull sharks.
But now, thanks to the shark fin [soup] trade and unscrupulous [industrial scale] fishing methods, sharks are facing their greatest ever threat. The shark specialist group of the World Conservation Union claimed recently that almost every species of large shark found in European waters is heading for extinction. There are 13 species classified as critically endangered, meaning their numbers will decrease by 80% within three generations…. estimates that 90% of sharks have disappeared in the past three decades, with up to 100 million being killed a year.
Why should we care?
As apex predators as the top of the ocean’s food chain, sharks are not evolved to be preyed upon, and their lifecycle – slow growing, long living, late breeding – makes it hard for them to cope with sustained attack from driftnets, longlines and bottom trawling.
By removing the top predator we are pushing the ocean ecosystem which we rely on to regulate our climate into an unknown future, which could be potentially disastrous for man. More than 70% of the world is made up of oceans and they are home to algae – plants that range in size from single-celled organisms to massive crops of kelp – which through photosynthesis remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen [more than all the rainforests on earth].
Climate experts such as Sir James Lovelock have declared that algae is perhaps the single most important cooling element on earth… by killing off sharks, smaller sea creatures [ordinarily eaten by the sharks] will flourish and consume greater quantities of algae. The shark is essential…
(Excerpt from an article by Tom de Castella, from the Telegraph Magazine)
If you get chance to see Sharkwater in the cinema or rent it on DVD, do.