Sharks get a lot of bad press. On Saturday at Wembury, for the second time in a month, we celebrated sharks for what they are: incredible marvels of the natural world.
Some of the sharks biology is truly breath taking, with adaptations that wouldn’t look out of place on a space craft. The sharks skin is rough like sandpaper and is made of millions of tiny backwards facing teeth called denticles, which enable some of them to go really, really fast in the water. They have 7 senses and are able to detect the electricity given off by their prey’s bodies. And can also sense changes in pressure, caused by creatures moving alongside them using their lateral line. The biggest shark is as large as a bus and the smallest able to fit in the palm of a hand.
This was what Saturdays event was about, making people aware that there is more to shark than just teeth. Sharks are incredibly important for the health of our seas, keeping prey populations in check. But these creatures, which were swimming in our oceans around the time of the dinosaurs are in trouble.
Did you know sharks killed 3 people last year, which is actually surprisingly not very many.
To put this in perspective, road traffic incidents killed 1.3 million.
Meanwhile we killed over 100 million sharks (and this is a conservative estimate). Sharks are at the top of the marine food web and killing them in this number, is ecologically unsustainable.
Over the course of the two events I tried to get across that sharks are very different to the monsters that they are portrayed as being in the media, that they are creatures to be respected and revered. I also wanted to explore the wealth of shark diversity that we have on our own shores! With 21 resident species and a further 11 that visit, we are very lucky in the UK to have so many sharks. A lot of people are unaware of this, thinking sharks are something restricted to coral reefs and blue tropical waters. Just down the road from Wembury, we have a nurse hound hatchery, which a local man called John Hepburn is studying: tagging shark eggs to gain insight into their development and dispersal. I was lucky enough to be able to use some of Johns photos and even a video to show people that you can actually go out and observe these creatures.
Over the course of the 2 events we had crowds of people come and visit, learning about sharks though quizzes, games, presentations and art!
With the number of people, particularly children interested in sharks, I am hopeful that things will improve for sharks and their conservation.
A big thanks to Grace and Steph who helped me with my event, to John for some amazing pictures and to the Shark Trust for their incredible shark posters.