Sharks are fascinating creatures. These apex (alpha) predators are over 400 million years old. Keep in mind, that’s about 100 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared on land. But sadly enough, the shark population is on a rapid decline. The biggest of these prehistoric predators are in danger of extinction. This is why we are going to dedicate today’s article to one of the ocean’s most feared and misunderstood creatures, the shark. We want the world to know why healthy oceans need sharks.
All living things feed in order to get energy and grow and or move. This energy allows for beings to reproduce and continue the circle of life. Small insects feed on plants, bigger animals feed on smaller ones and so one and so forth. This feeding relationship within an ecosystem is known as a food chain. Most food chains occur in a sequence. Now, it is important to note that sharks are at the top of the food chain. This means that sharks serve as an indicator for overall ocean health and diversity. Where there are sharks there are a myriad of other animals therefore indicating a thriving ecosystem. Oceans also need sharks because they maintain the balance between competing species. Not to mention, sharks allow for healthy fish to thrive while the weak and sick end up getting eaten.
Due to their predatory behaviour, it is the shark that calls the shots, their movements and hunting strategy is what shapes the habitat and feeding area of the other marine animals. Through their spatial controls, sharks indirectly affect the habitats of sea grass and coral reefs.
You see if sharks cease to exist within the coral reef ecosystem the entire ocean and all living being within it are in danger. The absence of sharks allows for larger predatory fish to take over. Let us use the grouper as an example. Groupers feed off of smaller herbivores. With a decrease in herbivores comes an increase in macroalgae. An increase in macroalgae means that coral reef habitats are in danger because they relay on space and sunlight to survive. The overgrowth of macroalgae is detrimental to the bottom communities of the ocean thus throwing the ocean’s entire ecosystem off balance. Sharks help manage the ocean’s ecosystem; their relationship is symbiotic.
Coral reefs not only need sharks, they depend on them
Now, with this being said it is important to put things in perspective. Sharks are no longer the scariest animals in the oceans, we are. There are many reasons as to why some sharks are currently in decline, some reasons include advancements in technology, booms in the travel industry, and overfishing just to name a few. These practices have rendered sharks somewhat helpless to our modern day system. But, there is good news ahead. We are not powerless. We as travellers and consumers have the power to help reverse and undo a lot of the damage that has been done. It is within our power to create change for these majestic and misunderstood creatures.
First, we must educate ourselves and remove the stigmatization that exists around sharks. Sharks are not scary, they are valuable and our oceans depend on them. Congratulations on reading this far, you have officially completed Step One.
And second, we must ensure that our travel experiences are done in a sustainable way. There are many companies that provide wonderful and exhilarating adventures while also maintain sustainable practices. We are proud to say that we are one of them.
If you are interested in getting to know more about sharks and their impact on the environment? We offer a wonderful cage diving experience that safely puts you in a shark’s habitat so you can have a one-in-a-lifetime encounter with the mother of all sharks, the Great White, while supporting marine research and conservation efforts. For more information, see details of our Wildthentic experience Dyer Island Shark Cage Diving.