There’s more to Shark Week then megalodon

Portrait of an Oceanic Whitetip shark, (Charcharhinus longimanus). The Bahamas. Photo Credit: Brian Skerry
Portrait of an Oceanic Whitetip shark, (Charcharhinus longimanus). The Bahamas. Photo Credit: Brian Skerry

As users of every social media outlet, like Twitter, likely know, it’s Shark Week on Discovery Channel. Sharks are having a bit of a moment right now, thanks to SyFy channel’s made-for-TV movie  Sharknado, about a waterspout that carries sharks out of the ocean and into LA where they eat people and are fended off by chainsaw-wielding citizens.

National Geographic, meanwhile, compiled this list, of “Top Ten Stories About Sharks Since Last Shark Week.” It includes lots of neat tid-bits and an “overview of what we have learned about these majestic citizens of the sea in the past year.” It includes facts like some sharks are also able to light up and confuse predators and prey, and sharks are kind of colorblind and hunt using patterns of black, white and gray rather than using brilliant colors.

I think one of the most important factoids comes at the end, number 10, about shark conservation in general. In March, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), approved what’s been touted as an unprecedented and historic protection for five species of highly-traded sharks and two species manta rays.

The protections almost didn’t happen, as we noted earlier this year: some international delegates were trying to apply pressure, political and economical, to those voting on the regulations to drop them.

But it didn’t work, and CITES delegates passed the protections. The Pew Charitable Trusts had this insight to the protections:

“This is a major win for some of the world’s most threatened shark species, with action now required to control the international trade in their fins,” said Susan Lieberman, director of international environment policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “This victory indicates that the global community will collaborate to address the plight of some of the most highly vulnerable sharks and manta ray species. Today was the most significant day for the ocean in the 40-year history of CITES.”

Lieberman added that the gridlock created by those who oppose such controls has been broken. Sharks are primarily traded to Asia for use in shark fin soup. Manta rays are caught and killed for their gill rakers—the part used to filter their food from the water—to make a purported Asian health tonic.

“The tide is now turning for shark conservation—with governments listening to the science and acting in the interest of species conservation and sustainability,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of Pew’s global shark conservation campaign. “With these new protections, oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and hammerhead sharks will have the chance to recover and once again fulfill their role as top predators in the marine ecosystem.”

As they say in Shark Week, that’s Jawsome.

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