SAVE THE SHARKS!
Protecting sharks and rays in PH as the year ends
In 1975, a movie called Jaws swam silently into movie theaters. The flick was a loose retelling of the Jersey Shore shark attacks, when either a rouge great white shark or a combination of various sharks attacked five New Jersey beachgoers back in 1916. Jaws became a boxoffice legend, a low-budget film which netted half a billion dollars… and it took a big bite out of tourism. That summer, very few people went to the beach. Shark hunting competitions were even held to eliminate the seas of the “fearsome beasts”. After watching Jaws many years later, I still occasionally glance behind when I dive just to check if Bruce (yes, the shark had a name) is there. Heck, I sometimes half open my eyes in swimming pools just to be sure.
So what’s the real story behind sharks and shark attacks? In 2014, three people were fatally attacked by sharks. Scary, but here’s something scarier.
In the same year, people slaughtered anywhere from 50 to 100 million sharks, according to a 2013 report for Marine Policy. Caught for their meat, liver, and especially their fins, as many as 200 sharks die every minute – most of the killing done in the open sea, away from public eyes. And because of all this hunting, most Pinoys will never see a shark in the wild. This seems strange because the country is possibly the richest in terms of marine biodiversity – but not when we understand the state of local shark populations.
At least 95 of the world’s 465 shark species swim in Philippine waters – but only 14 species are protected by national law.
An adult tigershark (Galeocerdo cuvier). People from all over the world flock to dive sites frequented by sharks, generating millions of dollars in tourism revenues and proving that these charismatic creatures are worth far more alive than finned. (Boogs Rosales / Studio H2O)