Monday, October 4, 2010


It's that time of the year, filled with good cheer, blood, guts and chum. It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel and us cartilage-loving fools are in for a treat.

Shark Week has always been something to look forward to for me. I'm a big fan of the ocean and everything that dwells in it, new and old, but sharks have always been up on a higher pedestal. I'm fascinated by their majesty, the perfection of their being, how every single part of them has a specific function to make them the perfect predators they are: the rough teeth-like lined skin, the lateral line, the Ampullae of Lorenzini, the giant livers. They are amazing to me! And as everything amazing ought to be, I regard sharks and rays with the utmost respect and awe.

My fascination with sharks didn't start with Hollywood. For many, Jaws was the turning point of either developing the great fear or the great curiosity. Apt because Jaws starred the Great White. But my real WOW started with a book! Steve Alten's MEG was my very first shark read. I was on a creature-rush in first year high, devouring books like The Relic, Congo and Watchers (Jurassic Park and The Lost World were consumed in elementary, along with a few Agatha Christies) as if they were childhood reads, and I stumbled upon MEG in the "50% off" pile at NBS. Looking back on it now, it wasn't the best work of fiction in the world. It did however, give me my first encounter with megalodon. King of kings, Jurassic shark, stuff of nightmarish legends. The mere thought that such an animal once swam the waters of our Earth can be enough to drive the common man to hydrophobia. Thank heavens there's nothing common about me.

As enthralling it is to learn of the different life cycles and styles of the numerous shark and ray species, the more pressing issue at hand nowadays is the conservation of these apex predators. Many shark species are in danger of extinction due to human greed.

When reefed beaches are netted off to be tourist destinations, the nets trap a lot of animals: dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. Did you know that netted sharks drown and die? When a shark can't swim, oxygen can't be filtered through its gills. You don't need a bio degree to tell you no oxygen equals no life.

Sharks are also rampantly mutilated for their fins. There's an entire industry specifically catering to the Asians' inhumane craving for shark's fin soup. Do you know how the fishermen of this illegal trade get the fins? They hook the poor things with long lines baited with fish heads, reel in whatever shark takes a bite, hack off the fins and throw the rest of dead animal off board. A life for a piece of supposed delicacy.

These are the things that Shark Week try to fight against in its yearly quest. As stewards of the Earth, it is our responsibility to ensure that everything under our care survives. The scary fact is, our lifetime is faced with more endangered species than any other, only surpassed by the meteor annihilation of the dinosaurs. I hope my little lecture can be a wake-up call to many a-slumberin' spirits out there. Maybe it'll spike your curiosity and you'll find yourself tuning in every night of this week to the Discovery Channel.

For now I only ask for one thing: NO TO SHARK'S FIN SOUP AND NO TO NETS. It's their waters, we're only swimming in them. Have a happy Shark Week.

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