Shark Myths Debunked

Sharks really are misunderstood!

Sharks are some of the most fantastic, magnificent and important creatures in our oceans. They have been vital to oceanic health for over 400 million years and have barely changed in the last 150 million due to their near perfect predator evolution. However, sharks are also some of the most misunderstood animals on our beautiful blue planet and have been feared and hunted because of this misconception. Shark populations have been decimated in the last 50 years due to this irrational fear, and the increasing demand for shark fin soup.

Whale shark in Koh Tao waters

Therefore in an attempt to re image the shark, here are 5 shark myths debunked and explained!

Sharks are dangerous and eat people.

This is a huge misconception as 97% of all sharks (500 species) actually pose NO threat to human beings. The other 3% neither hunt nor prey upon humans. There are only 5-10 shark related deaths a year, whereas falling coconuts kill 150 people, and cows kill 20 people annually in the US alone. Statistically, you’re 2,000 more likely to be killed by lightening than a shark. Additionally, 90% of shark attack victims survive their wounds showing that sharks only bite out of defense or curiosity, no with intent to kill.

shark-death-stats

Can sharks really smell a single drop of blood from miles away?

No. The shark olfactory sensory system is highly sensitive, especially to amino acids and plasmas associated with their prey. However if sharks were ‘over sensitive’ to these particles, this would cause an over stimulation affect that would confuse the shark. The oceans have so many different chemicals, partials and hormones floating through them that sharks wouldn’t be able to isolate and utilize any single smell. Imagine having incredibly acute hearing, and attempting to hold a conversation in a crowded area, the over stimulation would make it very difficult to listen or follow any single voice.

Sharks are immune to cancer and diseases, and can pass on this strength and immunity through ingestion of shark meat or specifically shark fin.

NO. This is a huge myth passed down through Chinese tradition, relying on the idea that shark power can be consumed. This ancient ideology has caused an explosion in the demand for shark fin soup, which causes the death of over 100 million sharks every year (12,000 an hour). However, shark fin has absolutely no nutritional value and no taste, the soup is instead flavoured by chicken/pork broth. In fact, the texture of the flavourless fin can be substituted unknowingly for stringy mushrooms meaning there is no need for the inhumane practice of shark fishing and finning. Furthermore, sharks are being found with more cancers and diseases than ever before due to increased ocean pollution and contamination.

Shark fin soup, a delicacy, apparently!

In the extremely unlikely event of a shark attack, should you punch it in the nose?

This is also a myth. Although the shark nose tip has sensitive electromagnetic and water pressure sensors, the effectiveness of a punch to this area would be greatly reduced by the density of water. An aimed punch would do very little and is merely sticking your fist closer to the sharks’ mouth. A preferred defensive method would be to attack the vulnerable eyes.

Do sharks need to constantly swim to breathe?

This statement is somewhat true. Sharks do indeed need a constant flow of water over their gills to diffuse oxygen into the blood stream and remove carbon dioxide. However, this can be accomplished in a few ways. Some sharks have evolved strong cheek muscles to push water to and through the gills allowing them to breathe whilst resting or stationary. Other sharks have developed intuitive behaviors to rest at areas of water movement allows them to breathe whilst also resting (aquarium sharks have adapted to sit by the water pumps). However, if a sharks fins are removed by finning, they cannot control their movement or breathing and so bleed to death or suffocate.

shark fins out to dry

Unfortunately, sharks are feared and hunted because of these myths and misconceptions, and their absence is having a serious impact on our oceans. You can help them by educating others and spreading awareness, as only together can we protect this fascinating species.

Help protect the shark!

Shark drowning due to having fins cut off

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