Monday, December 3, 2007

Dec5 Ep2: Hide and Seek with the Sharks

(shark photo courtesy of R.Barnett)
WILDLIFE ENCOUNTER: four (4) White Tip Reef Sharks; mantis shrimp, Bat fish, & fish fish fish... ZERO Tresher Shark!
ADVENTURE: Scuba Diving - rocky boat in Big Swells, 1-to-2 knot underwater current
“SHARK!! Swim for your life!!”
(I was shouting at the shark… so it can swim away, to live another day.)
Sharks earned their fearsome reputation from their menacing set of razor-sharp teeth, fatal attacks on human, and of course – famous movies like “Jaws”. Seeing its dorsal fin gliding in the surface water towards you - gives you the imminent feeling of death!

But we all know that majority of shark species are harmless to humans. In fact, humans kill a lot, lot, lot, lot more sharks (millions!) than sharks kill humans. And their numbers are already threatened.

In the Philippines, majority of Pinoys still fear sharks as voracious human-eating predators. And does that really matter? YES - because people don’t care killing (or allowing killing of) ‘enemies’, and are easily blinded by its importance. The first step is to understand that these creatures are not like the regular Great Whites featured in “Jaws!” We, divers, experience for the fact- that they can swim with humans side by side, without those flesh-munching, arm-tearing attacks. Of course that’s true if you are swim-diving with the right species (or size) of shark, or if you’re behaving ‘nicely’. Enough knowledge gets you out of trouble.

Sharks, even those protected or endangered – are all being hunted for its prized part – the FINS! And not many people know that the usual shark finning method is to catch the animal alive, cut its fins (dorsal, pectorals, tail), and dump back the poor dying victim in the water to die of drowning or starvation. Many people do not know that they play a certain role in the eco-system. All species do! Keeping mid-predator population balanced is one. Like there is this story somewhere in Europe on a severe Tuna population decline, and fishermen were shocked to find out that the reason was the declining number of sharks. They learned later that a healthy population of shark kept Tuna’s primary predator in check.

Sharks are beautiful, elegant and awesome swimmer and hunter. I have seen a few in our own backyards – in Apo Reef, in Malapascua, and also in other famous dive destinations like Palau. Most people only see them in wet markets, or see (and eat) some of its part in restaurants.
We’ve seen the stats, and we’ve seen the effects of its decline. It’s time to ACT – an act to help save this important species to help preserve not just their kind, but the whole Marine ecosystem as well.

This is not only a problem of Government, or NGOs, or concerned citizen. We can all do our little thing to help. DON’T buy or consume shark products!! Shark’s fin soup or siomai, and shark’s teeth/jaw are just a few common examples – please avoid them, and give our shark friends a little room to survive.

Sabi nga ng WWF – “If the buying stops, the killing will…” :)

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