I love sharks. They are unfathomable. They aren't relatable. They have a frightening amount of teeth. They have been around forever, roaming the seas for 420 million years, meaning that as long as people have been going in the water, there have been sharks. They are a danger primeval.
I can happily spend hours watching footage of them slowly arcing through the water, batting their heads against cameras and prods, chomping down on hunks of meat, and clearly, I am not alone - in 2008, 29 million people tuned in to Discovery Channel's Shark Week to watch sharks swim around and bite things. It is a pleasure under threat. Like so many things in this world, sharks - one of the most mercilessly effective survivors out there - are being decimated by humans. Finning for soup, long-lining, over-fishing - the estimate is that we kill close to 100 million sharks every year. 100 million. The mind boggles.
The rap in the conservation world is that it is hard to get people excited about protecting sharks because they aren't fuzzy and cute. People hate to lose cute and fuzzy things. I hate to lose any thing, but it would be its own tragedy to lose such oddly beautiful toothy beings. It's part of what makes the sea the sea. The creatures unknowable and unpredictable that can bite. Predators swimming beneath in a world outside our control and creation, in a habitat that is not our own, no matter how we exploit it.
I like to believe, beneath the sensationalism of Shark Week, with its 'Air Jaws 3' and 'Shark Bite Beach', a kernel of concern and awareness about sharks is growing into a critical mass. I hope so.
The Pew Charitable Trusts: Shark Conservation