Sharks & Rays
In the last 15 years, humans have depleted some shark and ray populations by upwards of 90%.Take Action ↓
One hundred million years before there were dinosaurs, there were sharks. As Earth’s ecosystems evolved and diversified over the millennia, sharks and rays have maintained the balance at the center of the great oceanic food web.
Sensitive to invisible electromagnetic fields, sharks and rays can aptly navigate our blue planet, playing key roles in regulating sea life around the world. Their daily voyages are synchronized with the ebb and flow of the lunar currents, such that sharks and rays interact with species dwelling in both coastal waters and the high seas. Regardless of what exactly it eats, each shark and ray is essential to keeping global prey populations in check. From coral reefs and seagrass beds to salmon and oysters, a diverse ocean is dependent on healthy shark and ray populations.
Unfortunately, the immeasurable value of sharks and rays is only just starting to be understood. Despite being our seniors by 450 million years, little is truly known about their biology or behavior, apart from the many destructive misconceptions.
The sheer size, power, and extraterrestrial appearance of sharks and rays have inspired a great deal of fear and fascination among humans. In Ancient Greece, physicians would regularly call upon the healing powers of electric rays to numb the pain of surgery and childbirth. More recently, the poaching of manta rays spiked across Southeast Asia due to a new market of Chinese pseudo medicine. Throughout the Pacific Islands, sharks figure prominently into native mythology as ocean guardians. Meanwhile, the popular Western view of sharks has been one of a voracious killing machine. Thanks in no small part to pointed media coverage and Hollywood film portrayals, people tend to focus more on sharks’ toothy grins than their ecosystem services.
Our general fear and popularized misconceptions have fueled an industry that kills more than 100 million sharks and thousands of rays every year. Of the world’s 1,000+ shark and ray species, only three are known to fatally attack humans. Yet, we are killing sharks and rays faster than they can reproduce. Over one third of the species are threatened with extinction. These ancient giants simply can’t bounce back like other fish species.
Living in a world of eternal motion, sharks and rays must keep swimming forward in order to survive. Unless we move forward passed our misguided fears and unsustainable appetites, these ancient giants may soon disappear and with them, any hope at a healthy ocean.