Pro­tect­ing sharks and rays in PH as the year ends

Animal Scene - - THE WILD SIDE - By GREGG YAN

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)

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