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DiverWire Report: What can YOU do to help save sharks

(DiverWire) The Internet has greatly impacted the global awareness of environmental problems. It is a powerful tool, but sometimes the steady influx of information can be overwhelming. Our planet is in trouble and there are so many problems that people may think there is really nothing they can do. We must keep hope, however, and realize that as individuals there is so much we really can do. These are simple things that only take minutes, but can have a strong impact.

Like anything, start off small and then work your way up. You don’t have to organize a massive beach cleanup in order to help the planet.  Start instead by taking a bag with you to collect trash on your morning walk. Age or location doesn’t matter. Everyone has a voice and everyone can make a difference.  Each day there are small steps that we can all take to make our oceans healthier and help the planet.

I have created a list of ten things that anyone, including divers, can do to help Sharks. In helping sharks, you are helping the oceans. Sharks are apex predators that play a vital role in the survival and healthy functioning of our oceans. They are threatened globally and are in a desperate race against time to survive. Sharks do not breed like other fish, laying thousands of eggs. Because of this the impact of overfishing and finning has a far more extensive impact on their populations. Take a moment and see how you can help sharks.

  • Do grocery stores in your area sell shark meat at the fish counter? Do local restaurants serve shark or shark fin soup? Ask the owner or manager why they sell a product that has toxic levels of mercury? Speak to the community and encourage people to speak up and take their business elsewhere. Contact a conservation group to organize a petition or start your own. Reach out to local newspapers or television stations. You have a voice! Use it to speak for those that do not.
  • Do your research. Find out about the troubles facing our oceans? Sharks are apex predators that keep oceans clean and regulate the food chain. Without them the animals below them in the food chain will start to vanish. This affects the entire system.
  • Volunteer for a local conservation organization. Get out in the community and spread the word. If there is nothing local than find a larger group and see how you can help or start your own. There is always a need for passionate people to take action.
  • Speak to a local school about sharks and the ocean. Organize for a marine biologist or conservationist to come in and speak. Getting kids excited and involved is crucial for the future of our oceans.  Organize the same thing for other groups in the community. ( Scuba club, garden club, sailing club…etc.)  ( www.shark-girl.com to book a presentation)
  • Go on a shark dive or snorkel.  Everyone should see a shark in the wild. A personal experience can change the stereotypes that many people have about these amazing animals. Check out areas where you can snorkel or go for a dive with different species of sharks. Not a scuba diver? Find a class locally and jump in. Everyone can be a diver!

Are there marinas in your area that fishing boats come into? Sharks are killed as prize game fish and strung up on the dock.  Have a chat with the local marina owner or manager and find out if he or she has heard of the Shark Free Marina Initiative. This campaign establishes a ban on landing any shark for any reason in the marina. It hopes to encourage catch and release if people still insist on fishing for sharks. For more information check out www.sharkfreemarinas.com

Do not buy shark products. Do you own a shark tooth necklace? Yes, they are cool, but where do you think the teeth came from? Some may have been collected or are fossils, but most come from sharks that are killed for the purpose or another.  What about shark cartilage for certain ailments? There is NO proof that is works for anything and is just a gimmick. Do not buy it.

Be aware of what you are eating. A lot of places use shark in their fish and chips or other fish dishes. Shark is a cheap option for them and most people never question it.  Always ask what the fish is. Look out for names like, “hake,” and “flake,” as these are other terms for shark in places like Australia. If it isn’t shark, is it a sustainable fish? If you do eat fish, go online and get a Safe Seafood card for your area and find out what types of fish are considered sustainable.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up. Many times people are afraid to cause a scene or create trouble, but there is no harm in asking questions. Be prepared to get unsavory answers or negative responses. You might also be surprised. Sometimes it just takes asking nicely or pointing something out to make a change!

Keep our oceans clean. Next time you visit the beach take a garbage bag with you. Pick up trash that you see. Organize a beach cleanup in your neighborhood.

Jillian is a marine biologist, scuba instructor, professional videographer and ocean advocate. Follow her adventures at  www.shark-girl.blogspot.com