Canadian sharks get profiled
By Jarrett Corke, Shark Project Coordinator – Halifax Office, WWF-Canada
In a recent publication, researchers conducted a content analysis of 300 articles from 20 major Australia and U.S. newspapers. Close to 60% of all the articles portrayed sharks negatively with just over 50% of these articles dealing specifically with shark attacks. As shark populations continue to decline worldwide from the effects of directed and incidental catch in commercial fisheries, there is no doubt that they also “suffer from a negative public image” say the authors, which “highlights problems for shark conservation.”
If we all agree that sharks do in fact suffer from a negative public image, it is likely due to the public’s lack of awareness and/or exposure to these species. The only true way to turn the tides for sharks is to expose the public to the other side of these species. The best way to do this these days is virtually.
Great White Shark © Wildlife Pictures/JÍrome Mallefet / WWF-Canon
Sharks of the Atlantic Research and Conservation Centre (ShARCC) is a virtual knowledge portal on all things shark in the Atlantic Canada. Through the collaborative efforts of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, The Worm Lab at Dalhousie University, and WWF-Canada, this site was launched with the intention of being a one-stop shop for any curious mind wishing to learn more about sharks. The goal of ShARCC is to promote elasmobranch (sharks, skates and rays) conservation in Atlantic Canada through research, outreach, changes on the water and improved management, ultimately leading to the protection and recovery of these species.
Recognizing the potential of ShARCC, WWF-Canada teamed up with the IUCN Shark Specialist Group and Simon Fraser University to develop a similar site. Casting a wider net, Sharks, Skates and Rays of the Pacific Northwest is a virtual hub for information on chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras) found in the Canadian Pacific waters. The goal of this website is to promote elasmobranch conservation in the Canadian Pacific through education to help inform the general public and change public opinion for the betterment of these species.
It is our hope that these sites will provide a central location for information on elasmobranchs, their conservation and management and any and all initiatives being taken to protect them in the region.
As an experienced diver, I can honestly say that being underwater with sharks is the only way to truly know what they are about. While terrifying at first, the self-realization that these animals are not interested in harming us – despite what we have been told – is utterly breathtaking. Only by sharing experiences and educating others can we ever hope to correct the negative perceptions that have been made in the past.
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