As many have noticed, The Discovery Channel has started its juggernaut of summer programming. First premiering on July 17th, 1988, The Discovery channel has been giving a generous heap of shark-filled goodness. They’ve been chumming the waters for 26 years now and show no signs of stopping. Shark Week is here.
With that said, we here at Paradise Below Diving would like to take the time to celebrate the myriad blessings we are given by sharing our waters with these benthic beasts.
Feared, Respected Final Bosses of the Ocean
In popular media, the appearance of a shark is overwhelmingly portrayed as cause for alarm. It’s true, the average shark is a force to be reckoned with, but the likelihood of a frenzied attack is not quite as conceivable as what movies and television may suggest it to be.
According to Iceana.org, in the span of years between 2006 to 2010, there were 110 reported instances of a shark attack in the state of Florida. This is proportionally larger than the rest of the country with the total number of attacks capping out at 179. While the study does not include the severity of attack to any degree, it should be noted that of the total number of attacks in Florida, only a single one was fatal.
Take into consideration the fact that the coastal waters of the United States attract over 200 million visitors annually. So in actuality, the percentage of an attack is incredibly low.
That said, with over 500 species of sharks in the waters, only around a dozen are considered to be dangerous to humans.
Knowing this information, it must be stated that a swimmer or diver should continue to pay a level of respect to sharks. They are still wild animals in their natural habitat and should be approached with extreme caution.
There is often a level of curiosity when it comes to the role of the shark in the larger oceanic ecosystem. While it is apparent they are large predatory beasts, the degree to which this plays into the grand scheme of things is often overlooked.
Sharks are THE apex predator of the ocean. They sit at the top of the food chain. This said, shark predation of other organisms is what allows the ecosystem to balance itself. It keeps the populations of fish in check so as to not overextend food stocks. Likewise, sharks tend to prey on sickly, weak, and old fish. This keeps disease from spreading into large populations of fish and other organisms, therefore keeping populations as a perfect balance.
This is also good for breeding. As weaker, less capable animals are fed upon, it keeps their genes from propagating, resulting in a much more robust, stronger crop of organisms. It’s natural selection at work, the key to evolution itself.
The programs often featured during Shark Week (the actual scientific documentaries, at least) do well to bring the importance of the shark into the viewer’s narrative. Educating ourselves about sharks is a key part in understanding the inner workings of the ecosystem at large.
We’ve seen quite a few sharks and it’s always amazing. Check out this video of a recent shark we saw on the Lost Tree South Site in North Palm Beach, Florida.