You have, almost certainly, eaten from it, admired its inhabitants, dived beneath it or sailed upon it. Paul Cox, Managing Director for The Shark Trust tells us why we should appreciate the earth’s life support system as well as the role we are playing in its legacy.
- There is only one ocean and it’s pretty big: Making up 99% of Earth’s living space and 70% of its surface, the ocean is still considered an enigma with 95% of it unexplored. To put its scale into perspective, the tallest mountain in the world is mostly underwater, Mauna Kea. An inactive volcano in Hawaii, Mauna Kea measures 10,210 metres, or, 33,500 feet, from its underwater base to its summit – that’s bigger than Mount Everest, but two-thirds lies unnoticed beneath the waves.
- No ocean means no humans: As the most valuable natural resource, we are inextricably tied to the ocean. From seaweed in our toothpaste, scales in lipstick, and algae in ice cream, we consume products that contain marine life on a daily basis. Even London’s Olympic stadium was built using 50,000 cubic metres of concrete, made from marine materials dredged from the seabed.
- The ocean is our largest museum: The ocean is home to some of the most diverse species on the planet. Frilled sharks, giant sea spiders the size of dinner plates, and glowing eels are just some examples of seldom seen species dating back to the prehistoric era. With the deepest part of the ocean up to 37,000 feet, there are potentially up to 750,000 undiscovered species still hidden in the depths.
- Sharks play a crucial role: Sharks have been regulating the seas for around 400 million years and if we take them out of the equation, we risk the entire ocean. Sitting at the top of the food chain, they maintain a healthy balance in a system that provides a third of the world’s food, and more oxygen than all the rainforests combined. Studies have shown that without the species, the knock-on effect would be catastrophic; wiping out everything from shellfish populations, to reefs and the seabed itself.
- Something needs to change: 50% of the UK’s shark species are under threat and 40% of European shark and ray species are under threat of extinction, making it the most threatened group of marine fish. According to the European Red List (IUCN), overfishing is the biggest threat to European marine fishes, with mining, energy development and coastal development also posing significant risks. Without action they could start disappearing in our lifetime, in fact some, like the Angel Shark, already are. But there is much that can and is being done to protect sharks as well as our ocean, and increasingly it is the combined efforts of scientists, businesses and engaged citizens that is making the difference, encouraging positive change one step at a time.
Find out how you can make a difference to our world’s oceans and the shark population here.