For most people, Selachophobia, or the fear of sharks, is a very real thing.
And how can we blame people for being afraid? After watching movies like ‘Jaws’ or even silly films like ‘Megashark Versus Crocosaurus’ or ‘Sharknado,’ just the thought of stepping into the ocean sparks memories of frightening images of these Hollywood embellishments.
In truth, you’re more likely to be hit by lightning (1 in 700,000) or die from a fall (1 in 218 chance) than being killed in a shark attack (1 in 3.7 million chance). Or what about this number: You’re more likely to be injured by a toilet (in 2008, this included 33,000 Americans) than by a shark (on average, 13 per year).
Now consider this: For every human killed by a shark, approximately two million sharks are killed by humans. Additionally, a quarter of shark species are at risk of extinction, 100 million or more sharks are removed from the oceans every year and many of the largest species have seen their populations decline by 90 percent or more.
While there is still much to be learned about sharks and their importance to a marine ecosystem, what we do know indicates that losing sharks could be devastating for the oceans and people. As keystone species, studies have shown sharks play important roles in both the middle and top of the food web likely influencing the health of coral reefs.
Thankfully, the world is starting to wake-up to the crisis facing sharks. At the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a record-breaking number of countries have offered their support to protect 18 species of sharks and rays (mako sharks, wedgefish and giant guitarfish) that are quickly disappearing from the world’s oceans.
While this may not convince you, we interviewed 10 people to hear about their experiences observing sharks in their natural habitat.