Save the Sharks?

In today’s Times, Andy Revkin reports on a new study by the Lenfest Ocean Program that will surely inspire a rush to the barricades for certain environmentalists:

Some shark populations in the Mediterranean Sea have completely collapsed, according to a new study, with numbers of five species declining by more than 96 percent over the past two centuries. “This loss of top predators could hold serious implications for the entire marine ecosystem, greatly affecting food webs throughout this region,” said the lead author of the study, Francesco Ferretti, a doctoral student in marine biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.

My question is: how much public and philanthropic enthusiasm can be drummed up for a Save the Sharks campaign? Save the whales, sure, and baby seals, definitely — but sharks?

Even though sharks present a rare living link to prehistoric times, and even though the severity of shark attacks is egregiously overblown, the first step toward “saving” them (if indeed such an effort is necessary, and worthwhile) may be a rebranding campaign. Maybe Steven Spielberg could be enlisted. It’s all his fault anyway, isn’t it?

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  1. Jonathan says:

    As most ecologists could testify, top level predators are usually extremely important parts of an ecosystem.

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  2. Charles says:

    Similar problem with wolves although they have the good sense not to eat the hand that’s trying to save them; they just eat the sheep or the cow of the hand that’s trying to save them.

    Doesn’t this problem get right back to the human tendency to overweight vivid and recent events just like stock picking? One poor surfer get’s torn in half and the lemmings sellout, running for the cliff. How do we turn people into value investors of sharks? We figure out how to eliminate the threat. Don’t ask me how but I’m sure that lasers, an iphone and a teenage introvert will be involved.

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  3. PaulK says:

    Think Canary in the mineshaft. Whether lovable looking or not, if they are dying out, something is very wrong, and this is your forewarning.

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  4. chum in the water says:

    Perhaps the sharks’ Wall Street brethren will chip in out of familial guilt.

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  5. Jason says:

    “As most ecologists could testify, top level predators are usually extremely important parts of an ecosystem.”

    Yes, if you remove the top level predators from an ecosystem, all hell breaks loose. But that’s not the problem here: the open oceans *have* a very effective top-level predator, he’s running around in boats eating up all the sharks’ food.

    So the ecosystem consequences might not be as big an issue, but unless we want to admit that we’re only interested in *fuzzy* endangered species, we should be as interested in saving sharks as we are in saving bears.

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  6. Kathryn says:

    Sharks are apex predators that need to be protected and respected and this report exposes the facts about their dwindling populations. We kill tens of millions of sharks every year through shark finning, a barbaric practice, and as bycatch in the fishing industry. Shark tournaments, where fisherman compete for cash prizes to kill the largest shark, don’t help their plight either and celebrate this violence. Removing a large, mature shark from the ocean to hang up on a dock for money is detrimental to populations as they are very slow to mature and reproduce. Sharks may not be loveable creatures but we need to learn to love and respect them.

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  7. Nina says:

    But there are Save the Sharks campaigns. Humane Society International has been talking about them for years – I try to help whenever possible by at least sending a letter to local governments to help make better policies for protecting these animals, and sometimes by making donations.
    Although I have a near-phobia of sharks (obviously, Spielberg is to blame), I am a fierce animal protector and think all species are here for a reason and should be preserved.

    If everyone has a little spare time on their hands and wouldn’t mind helping, here’s the link:
    http://www.hsus.org/

    SAVE THE SHARKS!

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  8. Nina says:

    Ok, I promise this is the last time.
    But if you want to learn more about how to help stop shark finning, click here: http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/shark_finning/help_stop_shark_finning.html

    If you at least take step #9 (sign HSI’s No Shark Fin pledge), it’s already a great achievement. :D

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