What We Might Not Learn On Shark Week

August 8, 2011 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

courtesy of Discovery Channel

It’s Shark Week! If that doesn’t already mean something to you, allow me to direct you towards the Discovery Channel, where you can tune in all week to catch exciting, informational, and sometimes frightening programs about the fascinating predator. If you like awesome action shots and high energy shows, this could be your newest TV addiction and you won’t be alone. According to a recent post in the New York Times Arts Beat, this year’s Shark Week kicked off with 3.3 million viewers.

While Shark Week has gained a massive following with thrilling themes like “rogue predators” and “shark attacks”, little focus is put on some of the less exhilarating, but equally as moving, aspects of a shark’s reality.

courtesy of Discovery Channel

Like many large predators, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining their marine ecosystems. Remember the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park? Sharks keep the ocean’s food chains in balance, upping species diversity and ultimately keeping our oceans healthier. Not only this, but shark populations can have an impact on human livelihoods as well. For example, a decrease in the shark population off the coast of North Carolina resulted in the decline of a scallop fishery that sustained a local community (Save Our Seas).

Sadly, North Carolina isn’t the only coast losing its sharks. Predator loss in the oceans is severe globally due to the usual suspects: pollution and habitat loss. Another estimated 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins (a specialty food in some markets) and an untold number of sharks die each year as the by-catch of commercial fishing.

courtesy of the Marine Stewardship Council

So, other than brushing up on your shark facts via Shark Week, what can you do to help keep shark populations where they should be? If you’re like me and live in the upper Midwest, it might feel like there isn’t much you can do since any ocean access is hours away. Don’t forget that as consumers we wield an incredibly powerful force—that is, our purchasing power! Make sure to look for the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue label on any seafood you purchase from the store. Another great resource is the National Resource Defense Council’s page on sustainable seafood, which includes information and quick tips. Not only will you be helping the shark cause, you will be eating seafood from a more trustworthy source. Improving my health and the environment? Sounds good to me!

Dorothy, EnAct Team

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