Think you can only save sharks by being on the front lines? Think again. While some of the Shark Angels are busy in the field, there are things you can do from your home and daily lives, without heading to join us in some remote destination. Or dedicating your entire life to shark conservation.
And think because you don’t eat shark fin soup or live in a country that considers it part of its culture, you can’t take action? Doesn’t matter. You can still make a difference in the shark issue.
Most likely, the sale of shark products is legal in your town, yes - your town. The local restaurants, grocery stores, health food stores, beauty salons and even pet stores may sell shark. You may even be consuming shark and not realizing it. And, chances are also good your country is also responsible for the supply. Shocked? Believe it. The US, UK, France, Spain, and Portugal join Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan in the top 20 largest shark fishing nations. 125 nations worldwide are openly trading shark products.
Even if your country isn’t on the list, sharks and their habitats probably aren’t effectively protected – did you know Australia allows commercial shark fishing in the Great Barrier Reef – a World Heritage Site? Shark fishing is legal in most places throughout the world, as is shark finning. And it is perfectly legal to sell shark fins (and all other shark products) almost everywhere in the world - except Hawaii, Guam, CNMI, Washington and hopefully soon, California and Oregon.
So, here are ten easy things you can do:
Earn your wings and become a Shark Angel, serving as a spokesperson and local campaign activist.
Give a presentation at a school or event.
It isn’t just the soup. Do not eat shark steaks or meat, do not eat imitation crab, lobster or shrimp (it often contains shark), and do not white fish, rock salmon or the other names for it.
This isn’t just for the sharks’ health – it’s for yours. Shark meat (including fins) carries warnings due to its high mercury levels from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the World Health Organization. If you want to know what mercury does, just google “mercury poisoning” and prepare to be horrified. Still want to eat it?
Do not support any restaurant or store that sells shark or ray products or shark fin soup and inform them of your concerns. This includes shark cartilage, squalene (used in many beauty products), shark meat, shark leather, shark teeth/jaws, and shark fins. But most importantly, be sure to TELL business owners exactly why you are boycotting their restaurants/stores. Educate them and give them a chance to do the right thing by publicly denouncing the sale of sharks and ray products.
Always report, to the proper authorities, anyone you witness mal-aligning or abusing this incredibly valuable animal. Don’t know who to report to? Report it to us.
Since over ½ of the 73,000,000 sharks caught yearly are caught as by-catch, and some of the commercial fisheries are headed for collapse in a few short decades, please eat sustainably.
If you eat fish, you should do it wisely - and sustainably. Get smart! Download a seafood card and carry it with you. Most likely, one exists no matter where you live. You may even be able to download a cool iPhone App. You can even SMS a database of sustainable choices when out and about in South Africa, so no matter where you are, there are no excuses not to make informed decisions and minimize our collective impact.
Never use any products (including makeup, lotions and deodorants) that contain Squalene - shark liver oil. In fact, just buy cruelty free.
Be heard. Blog, write articles, appeal to media outlets and help dispel the myths. Don’t support media outlets that demonize sharks. Sharks aren't evil re-incarnated. Watch this video.
And, no matter where you live, the myths about sharks as bloodthirsty man-eaters are being perpetuated – dangerous mis-truths standing in the way of their conservation. Think sharks are evil re-incarnated? Watch this video, then say that.
Even if you aren’t living in country that is heavily consuming sharks, chances are, your country is part of the problem. The US and many countries in the EU are responsible for catching more sharks than most other countries in the world. Support legislation that stops shark fishing, protects shark habitats, and ends overfishing. It’s not just about the sharks – it’s about the oceans.
Bonus points if you make sharks more valuable alive than dead and support responsible (strong emphasis here) shark diving tourism. Get in the water with sharks! Get to know sharks. Increase shark tourism and prove that sharks are worth more alive rather than dead.
You can and should make a difference before there aren’t sharks left. In fact a recent IUCN report has identified over 1/3 of all shark species (more than 500 in total) are facing extinction – some in our lifetimes. Destroying sharks and the oceans isn't a legacy we want to leave for future generations. You?
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