Sharks are Symbols of a Healthy Ocean

Why  sharks?  Sharks swim in our psyche. There is something mysterious, enigmatic and even deeply atavistic about sharks,  The unmistakable shape of a shark, the open jaws lined with serrated teeth, and the shark fin is  imprinted throughout human history up to modern times. 

From petroglyphs in European caves, carvings in Pacific Island volcanic rocks to shark masks in a West African dance, the image of the ocean's apex predator inspires power, fear and  even virility.  Cultures the world over have created myths and cults around sharks, deifying them and demonizing them. The Greek goddess Lamia was a daughter of the god Poseidon, a devourer of children and the mother of the sea-monsters Skylla and Akheilos.  The Australian Aborigines have an oral history of Bangudja, the tiger-shark, which attacked the dolphin man in the Gulf of Carpentaria, leaving behind a large red spot on the rocks of Chasm Island. The Pacific Island peoples who live in close connection to sharks have elevated sharks to a God-like status. The Hawaiian amuakua symbolizes an ancestor in the form of a shark and countless Hawaiian myths refer to the shark god Kamohoali’i serving as protector of fishermen, and guider of lost canoes. The Indigenous people of Solomon believe that the bodies of  sharks are inhabited by the souls of the dead people.

In modern cultures, we continue to symbolize sharks: the ruthless lawyer; a cool calculating professional golfer; a quick and dangerous professional hockey team. Until recent times shark encounters did not spread beyond local beach or fish communities, but with modern media, and the immeasurable psychological impact of a Hollywood film sharks rose from the subliminal depths into the forefront of our collective fear.     The wave of horror sparked by jaws continues today, news stories of a single shark attack spread beyond proportion, when the true story should be man bites shark. The fact is we are removing all large predatory fish  from the world ocean at an unsustainable rate. As the consummate oceanic predator, sharks are especially vulnerable to overfishing and are  increasingly being wiped out for products like shark fin for soup.  Man bites shark at the rate of millions to one.  In this respect man is winning, but in reality we are all losing.  It has been demonstrated that sharks are essential members for a healthy ecosystem and removing them is causing an imbalance, even a collapse of  complex marine communities.  Why sharks? Sharks are a symbol of what is going wrong with the oceans and what can be right. Sharks are symbols of ocean health.  Its time to put away the myths, push back the soup bowl and start protecting sharks for a healthy ocean and healthy humans. Its time think like a Sea Steward for all ocean life, including the shark. This is why sharks are the Sea Stewards symbol and the motivation behind the Shark Sanctuary Initiative.