That’s a great question! You don’t need to be a marine biologist to make a difference to sharks and their conservation. Here’s some quick ideas:
1. Avoid consuming shark products. The common ones to avoid are shark meat and fins, but shark liver oil (squalene) can also be found in cosmetics and bathroom products and shark cartilage is a frequent source of chondroitin found in supplements. Always check the label and if you’re unsure, remember you can always ask the seller where they source their ingredients.
2. Eat seafood from sustainable methods. Becoming bycatch is one of the leading contributors to shark population declines globally. If you choose to consume seafood check the label for the method used to catch your meal! Longlines, trawling and gillnets are all fishing methods that commonly result in high amounts of bycatch. You can also check out the seafood sustainability guide for your country – in South Africa this is the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI).
3. Challenge stereotypes! Have conversations with your friends and family about the value of sharks to our planet. Share content on social media that gives sharks a voice and challenge posts that exacerbate the myths. For decades sharks have been the victim of a ‘fear sells’ narrative kickstarted by the Hollywood blockbuster Jaws. By speaking out against this and encouraging the media to accurately portray sharks and their value we can continue to change perceptions. Watch this video from National Geographic explaining where our fear of sharks came from for more.
4. Experience sharks in their natural environment. Responsible ecotourism is one of the best ways to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of sharks. Sharks are worth far more alive than dead and to get governments’ behind this ecotourism businesses need your support, plus who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to witness sharks in the wild?! Want to join us on one of our expeditions? Check out our programmes here.
5. Support shark policy and legislation. For many conservation initiatives to be successful they must be backed by the policy and legislation to enforce and monitor scientific advice. This could be the implementation of a marine protected area, banning the trade of a particular species or stronger monitoring of fisheries, for example. Adding your voice to calls to action and petitions for pro-shark policy and legislation adds value to these animals in the eyes of politicians which encourages them to make positive changes.
6. Back diversity within shark research and conservation. Diverse voices create stronger research and greater innovation, but representation is also vital in changing the perception that shark science is only for certain demographics of society. We all have a role to play in protecting sharks and the wider ocean. Check out Minorities in Shark Sciences, Women in Ocean Science and Leading Women in Marine Science for more information.
Starting today, whatever walk of life you follow you can have a positive impact on the future of sharks. Making a difference to our oceans and the wildlife that call it home is a responsibility for all of us, and the best part is, thanks to the internet you don’t even need to leave your sofa to have a positive influence!
What are you going to do for sharks today?