Shark Week may have come to a close, but advocating for sharks isn't something that should just happen for one week during the summer. Anyone can help make the planet a better place for sharks to be, even if you're not a marine biologist and even if you're not near the ocean.
Here are 4 simple things anyone can do to support sharks and keep them healthy and happy in our oceans:
1. Don't support activities that are harmful to sharks.
The majority of sharks are killed as bycatch, meaning they were caught when another species was intended. For the most part, this is done with commercial fishermen. Learn more about bycatch and support companies working with conservation groups to reduce the number of sharks being lost in this manner.
If you are a sport fisherman, learn which shark species are protected where you are fishing and cut the line if you happen to hook one. Even if you were planning on releasing it anyway, the shark is likely better off with a hook in its mouth than having to struggle, get brought onboard a boat, and then tossed back into the sea. If you don't fish but know people who do, urge them to be considerate and free a shark rather than try to land it.
Refusing to eat shark fin soup (particularly in Asia where there is a strong cultural connection) is another way to reduce harm to sharks. While there has been a lot of legislation about shark finning in recent years, decreasing demand is the best way to lessen the number of illegally caught fins.
2. Stay informed.
Being a good shark advocate means staying informed about the latest news, proposed regulations, and research regarding sharks. Arming yourself with knowledge
The easiest way to do this is simply to follow shark researchers and advocates on social media. Neil Hammerschlag, David Shiffman, Shark Advocates International, Save Our Seas Foundation, and Oceana are all fantastic places to start.
3. Speak up.
4. Support shark research.
Some people are so passionate about sharks, they want to start their own nonprofits to help them. While the sentiment is beautiful, a bigger impact will be made by supporting an established organization run by experts instead.
Shark conservation policies that aren't based on sound scientific research and logic don't do a lot of good. In order to make sure that decisions are made with the most information available, consider donating to an organization that is making strides to learn more about sharks so they may be better protected.
Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) at the University of Miami is a great choice, and you can even have the opportunity to join the researchers out on the water as a citizen scientist and learn firsthand how these experts are saving sharks.
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