I thought the awareness of just how endangered sharks are was quite high but apparently it seems I was wrong. Working in diving at Master Divers, surrounded by divers, maybe it’s easy to forget that those new to the underwater world may not know of threats facing it. Similarly those that prefer their feet on dry land are less likely to be exposed to the environmental concerns facing the ocean. This was brought to mind recently when a group arrived to take their Open Water course…
Standing room only!
The students were enticed to eat shark in a previous place they stopped at before coming to Koh Tao. They had no idea they were doing anything wrong. Similar to how the adventurous travellers sample insects on the Khao San Road, they thought it was like a traveller rite of passage.
All this came to light when we showed a video that we had recently made to promote awareness of the threat facing sharks. Once we explained that some 40 million sharks are killed annually, which equates to around 4500 per hour, they were horrified.
The drastic decline in the number of sharks in the waters around Koh Tao is something that mirrors the global trend.
This is mostly driven by the barbaric practice of shark finning. Shark fins are a delicacy and used in shark fin soup which is eaten to demonstrate prosperity and wealth in many Asian countries. Clearly the more prosperous and wealthy these communities become the higher the demand for those trappings that signify wealth, and an iPad just won’t do.
The irony to all this is that the soup itself doesn’t actually taste good and in fact contains harmful levels of mercury so, as humans, we really should not be consuming it anyway.
The fin is the only part of value to the fisherman and the only thing worth selling. The result is that sharks are caught, finned and then what’s left of the creature is thrown overboard, still alive. This is horrific enough but sharks need to swim in order to breathe so this means that they actually suffocate and drown. This can take quite some time. As numbers decline, fishermen are targeting Manta Rays too, passing their fins off as shark in this gruesome business.
Silhouette of a manta ray
While you may feel powerless to help, there are in fact a number of things that you can do…
You can inform yourself by checking out the many websites dedicated to helping save sharks and find out how you can get involved. This can be anything from quite simply signing a petition, printing and hanging posters in your place of work or education, to organising a talk to help raise awareness of the issue.
This will surely have to wait until you return from your travels but there is one simple thing you can do right now:
The more people that understand the issue the more help sharks will ultimately receive in their battle to survive!
by Ayesha Cantrell of Master Divers