Thank you to Kestrel Collison who wrote us back in June 2009. Kestrel lives in Banff, Alberta and told us about her experiences in Exumas, Bahamas with her family, surrounded by ocean, fish, and sharks. Kestrel told us about a charity established by her family in 1968. Through this charity Kestrel was given the opportunity to make a presentation to the Board supporting a cause she believed in. Kestrel chose Sharkwater and came in third in her competition. Congratulations Kestrel! To see Kestrel’s speech:
I am sure that almost every single one of us here today has been somewhere near a coastline. We have enjoyed the sandy beaches, the warm sun and most of all, the ocean. We have all swam in the beautiful crystal blue waters to cool off, and snorkeled to enter an unknown world of majestic coral heads and colorful fish. Some of us have even gone scuba diving to get a better and closer look. What we don’t realize is that wherever you go swimming there is almost always a shark in the area. Sharks have been here for over 400 million years. They are the longest living creatures in the ocean, if not on land as well. They have survived 5 major extinctions that killed almost every other animal on our planet.
For some reason we all have this crazy idea about how terrifying sharks are, that they are the monsters of the deep and they will eat you whole in just one bite. This is not the case! The media and the movie Jaws have ruined the truth about Sharks. In no other environment do we live in such fear of animals equally or even more capable of killing us than we do of sharks. Not lions, tigers, bull elephants, or bears, to name just a few.
Rob Stewart, the founder of Sharkwater says; “The animal we fear the most, is the one we can’t live without.”
Sharks are the apex predators and carnivores in the underwater world. They control all other fish and organisms in the food chain, ranging from microscopic plankton to different species of fish, octopus and squid and even to coral and underwater plants. The ocean is our planet’s most important ecosystem and controls 2/3 of our Earth. It regulates the climate and provides feeding for most of the planet. Sharks are essential to the exquisite balance that exists in our world’s oceans today. Without these creatures, the equilibrium so essential to our planets health will disappear. Without SHARKS the beauty of the marine world as we know it will cease to exist, and who knows what the extent of the devastation will be.
One of the major things sharks keep in control, are the marine animals that eat microscopic plankton. Without sharks, the organisms that eat this plankton would grow to uncontrollable numbers causing the population of plankton to decrease dramatically. Plankton convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, providing 70% of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Without THIS PLANKON carbon dioxide WILL increase while oxygen WILL decrease and we WILL eventually have no air to breath and die off. Now it is not so much a matter of saving the sharks, but also saving ourselves.
Approximately one hundred million sharks are killed per year only for their fins. This means that nearly 99% of the shark that is caught is thrown back into the ocean alive to die an excruciatingly slow death by being eaten alive by other sharks and fish, or by suffocation. Do you know what the worst part is? Shark fin is tasteless! The only reason people want it is for the nice texture it adds to their soup. In Asia the shark fin is a status symbol for wealth and respect. Some of the biggest Sharks that have ever been caught have been stripped of their fins and are now hanging in a window in front of a restaurant to show all the people walking by how good that restaurant really is.
It takes sharks 25 years to reach sexual maturity and they have very few young. At this rate we are killing them at a faster pace then they can reproduce. In the last 30 years the population of sharks has decreased by 90%.
Did you know that there is so much money in shark fins that only trafficking in drugs rivals for profit? This is a million dollar industry we are talking about. 1 pound of shark fin can be sold for more than 300 dollars US.
There are many misconceptions about sharks. In some parts of China, it is thought that sharks have magical healing powers. They think that since sharks don’t get sick we wont get sick. Again, this is not true. You can now buy Shark fin pills at any given drugstore.
We are lead to believe that sharks are the rapacious terrors of the deep. That the risk of death by eaten alive is highly probable the instant we enter the ocean. Whales were once portrayed as monsters just like sharks are now. However, today we have protection programs and regulations to protect whales from being poached. It is through the hard work of many that in the near future there will hopefully be 100% compliance internationally.
There has never been a case where a shark has actually eaten a person like what one might see on TV or at the movies. The only shark bites that have ever been recorded are due to mistakes on the shark’s behalf or during a feeding frenzy. The similarity between a surfer on her surfboard and a seal as seen from below is unnerving. In no other environment are humans encouraged to feed wild animals as is frequently the case when scuba diving with less conscientious operations only interested in the tourist dollar. Would you walk into a pride of lions with a shank of beef and expect to come away without a mark, let alone alive? I think not.
ONE Shark can have as many as 50 000 teeth. That’s 5 to 15 rows of teeth in both its upper and lower jaw. But in most shark attacks, flesh is rarely removed. Recorded deaths by sharks are usually caused by blood loss, not because sharks consume the victim. As is pointed out in the documentary Sharkwater, any 12 foot or even 6 foot fish could do anything they wanted to us. If they wanted to eat us they would, but they don’t.
Here are just a few statistics to show how much we are blinded from the truth by our misguided fear of these creatures.
Deaths per year:
· Starvation: 8 000 000
· Cars: 1 200 000
· Drug Overdose: 22 000
· Hippos: 400
· Crocodiles: 140 – 150
· Elephants and Tigers: 100
· Soda Pop Machines: 9
· Sharks: 5
Crocodiles have killed more people in one year then sharks have in 100. Crocs are protected.
Sharkwater, which will be a registered charity by the end of this year, is trying to release this documentary in China, which of course is the main consumer of shark fin soup. It is a huge consumer awareness issue. Wildaid’s studies show that more than 75% of consumers don’t know that shark fin soup contains shark. The translation literally means “fish wing soup”. This movie can potentially have a huge impact in China but they need to reversion it for the market. By donating money to this production we are helping them do this exact thing.
Nothing is ever fair. In this, our world, there are the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy. There are blind people and deaf people, people with no family and poverty stricken families living in the streets. There is destitution, war, aggression, crimes and violence against mankind everywhere. But without the trees around us and the ground below us, the sky above us, oxygen to breath, land to live on, water and a healthy, balanced planet to provide us with a sustainable source of food; there will be no one and nothing. Our environment means everything to us. It provides us with food, entertainment, sports and recreation, beauty, art and many other things. In my lifetime, especially, there has been a great emphasis on the terrible damages done by man to our earth. Unless we begin to focus on our environment and nature it is guaranteed that we are very quickly (in terms of the life of our planet) destroying the only home we have. Unless we can learn to live in balance we will destroy it as well as ourselves. No one can ever achieve something great in just one step, it takes many baby steps, hard work and determination to reach your goals. Public pressure has resulted in the 1986 moratorium on whaling, Ghandi with the Indian Independence Movement, women being able to vote, the abolition of apartheid in Africa with Mandela, slavery coming to an end, and the civil rights movement. We can do anything we want to if we just try. Now, let’s save the sharks.
I would like to end my presentation with a slideshow and one of my favorite quotes by Anthropologist, Margaret Mead.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Thank you very much.