“Dear general shark scientists of the world”
By Jarrett Corke, Shark Project Coordinator, WWF-Canada
For as long as I can remember, sharks have been my passion. Whether it’s reading about them or diving with them, these animals have dominated my psyche.
Over the past year, I’ve been working at WWF-Canada on shark conservation in Halifax, Nova Scotia, tackling the most pressing issues for Atlantic sharks. So when I received an envelope last week addressed to Mr. Jarrett Corke with the words “To the General Shark Scientists of the World” written in pencil along the edge, I was intrigued.
Inside were two letters, both typed, along with 10 hand-drawn signs addressed to different countries around the world that read “Save the Sharks. No fishing”. I read the first letter. Written by the father of an exceptional young boy by the name of Jack Titterrell from Bowmanville, Ontario, the letter explained that his son had taken it upon himself to create these signs in the hopes of spreading his message – save the sharks. The second letter, dictated by Jack to his father, explained why he thinks people should take more care to avoid the unnecessary killing of sharks.
Jack’s reasons included:
1) “Sharks are endangered and I want them to survive.” Sharks and their relatives are among the most threatened marine vertebrates on Earth. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), close to half of the sharks found in Canadian waters are considered globally threatened.
2) “Sharks are nature and swim so fast.” Sharks play an important role in the marine ecosystem helping to maintain healthy oceans and life on earth. And, sharks are FAST! The Shortfin Mako Shark, an open ocean sprinter, is one of the fastest fish in the ocean achieving bursts of speed upwards of 80 km/h! By swimming so fast, they are also able to leap 15 to 20 feet from the water!
3) “If they don’t survive, they will become extinct.” Even before dinosaurs roamed the earth, sharks hunted our oceans. Although no species are known to have become extinct, shark populations are facing unprecedented declines. In some places, such as the Northwest Atlantic, shark species are estimated to have declined between 50 to 90% in the past few decades.
Jack is right to be concerned. Sharks are in trouble and they need our help. The loss of these predators may have direct and indirect effects on marine ecosystems, not only impacting other marine organisms, but us too – the human communities that rely on ocean resources.
It is time to put aside past notions of these animals and start to view them as wildlife. While sharks may not be as cute and cuddly (to everyone) as other marine species, such as turtles or whales, they are awe-inspiring animals.
While I could talk about sharks all day, I will try and end this on a positive note. Yes, sharks are in trouble. Yes, we have a long way to go in safeguarding these species, BUT, Things are changing for the better. Take Jack for example. He is evidence of a new generation growing up inspired by the wonder and beauty of these creatures. And it’s not just him. People of all ages and backgrounds are beginning to recognize the importance and beauty of these animals. Changing people’s perception of sharks is an uphill battle; however, there is hope! Public perception continues to shift from one where we need to protect humans from sharks to one where we need to protect sharks from humans.
So from one shark-fanatic to another, thank you for your words of encouragement Jack and Neil. Your letters have been a source of inspiration.
Did you know? You are more likely to die from faulty vending machines than ever being attacked by a shark. Honest.
To learn more about what we do to help protect sharks, visit, click here.
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