“Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest…”
– Lloyd Biggle Jr.
This past weekend marked the end of Shark Week 2014, and in humble Simonstown, Western Cape it was finalized in perhaps the best way possible: By, despite our limited numbers and humble origins, doing our part for shark conservation by taking part in the 2014 Finathon; a PADI Project Aware initiative that seeks to raise awareness for shark finning – a practice which is quickly reducing the numbers of sharks patrolling our oceans.
There is a reason the ocean is described as living. Apart from the fact that it houses more that 99% of all life on planet Earth and accounting for nearly 50% of all there species therein, like something which is alive, you cannot continuously interact with it without developing a love for it, and with love comes a natural protective instinct. Sharks have been a particularly controversial topic because unlike dolphins or whales, their demise is fueled by humanity’s inherent and misguided fear of them. Shark “attacks” are widely publicized, even more so those leading to death, whilst the death toll brought on by land dwelling animals rarely features. This is ironic since sharks are responsible for less than 0.1% of all ANIMAL attacks annually, and of all of these, they are the only one that we do not share a habitat with. Humans are land dwelling, sharks are sea dwelling. Neither naturally occurs nor can they survive in the other’s world, which means that we are trespassing and then blaming them instead of ourselves. Why do people instinctively remain in their vehicles while viewing wild predators, but blame sharks when they get mistaken for food whilst swimming in the open ocean?
Despite this, society continues to profit on many levels by portraying sharks as “man killers”. Cage diving operators chum the waters to lure hungry sharks and prompt an aggressive feeding frenzy while maintaining that it’s “normal behaviour in their natural habitat”. Movie producers get to cash in on this fear by creating thrillers that rely on as well as promote it, whilst shark finning continues unopposed as people cower in their fancy homes and watch sharks sink helplessly to the ocean floor with nothing to propel themselves with; the equivalent of having your diaphragm removed: The air is right there and you have everything required to utilize it, yet no way of getting it to your lungs. They drown in their own homes. And all this for what? A single meal, prepared as a traditional Chinese dish the world over. People who have had it confirm that it is tasteless, being nothing more than a custom…
Here’s a clip of world renowned chef and shark supporter Gordon Ramsay proving just that (Source: Gordon Ramsay – Shark Bait):
Every year, Project Aware promotes a series of international events referred to as the Finathon (www.finathon.org) which aims to raise awareness and funds against shark finning. Individual organisations all over the world register to be a part of the initiative and then each organize their own version of an event that represents the Finathon. This includes (but is not limited to) relay races, time trials, endurance dives etc. Last year, OMSAChosted the 2013 event which included a relay dive from the Glencairn Barge to Long Beach in Simonstown. This year, we decided to do an endurance race of sorts where divers would take on a 300m course and do as many laps as they could. Although the event yielded less participants than last year, we still had a great time and while doing so, raised some much needed funds for this worthy cause.
If you are serious about the environment and making a difference, I urge you to visit the Finathon website and pledge whatever you are comfortable with. Sharks are just another in a long list of voiceless species being exploited due to the label we have falsely sentenced them with.
“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry…”