Hunnuh chillun, e da shark week! Look ya! Ain fa hunnuh chillun gwine fa git shark stake. E fa hep we fa mek sho e ain da gwine extinct! Yes, believe it or not, in spite of the fact that native Gullah/Geechees would prefer to bite sharks than to be bitten by sharks, sharks are a threatened species in our waters.
Sharks are often the top predators in their ecosystems. Sharks are considered to be at the top of the marine food chain. However, sharks may be threatened by ocean warming and acidification. Loss of these ‘keystone’ species can result in complex changes in interactions between species and the numbers of species in an ecosystem which can lead to reduced biodiversity. Changes in sharks’ feeding behaviors could therefore have consequences, not only for already endangered shark populations, but also entire marine ecosystems.
So, if you are wondering what could lead to the feeding behavior changes, think about what you have associated with weather patterns-climate change! Yes, climate change has brought harm to our waterways and one such major impact has resulted in ocean acidification which is affecting our seafood.
There are numerous studies that have taken place and many under way concerning the impacts that ocean acidification can have on sharks. This not only includes the feeding behaviors (which we all need to be concerned about if we go to beaches and get in the water), but also Scientific Reports states “Although embryonic development was faster due to temperature, elevated temperature and CO2 had detrimental effects on sharks by not only increasing energetic demands, but also by decreasing metabolic efficiency and reducing their ability to locate food through olfaction. The combination of these effects led to considerable reductions in growth rates of sharks held in natural mesocosms with elevated CO2, either alone or in combination with higher temperature. Our results suggest a more complex reality for predators, where ocean acidification reduces their ability to effectively hunt and exert strong top-down control over food webs.” All of that is a scientific way to say that the ecosystem will not be the same if the sharks cannot prey on the other foods that they usually would due to how the increase of carbonin the water is affecting their species.
The skin of sharks have toothlike areas called “denticles.” Studies have have found that even just nine weeks in acidifying waters will make these protrusions get softer. The acid has a damaging impact on the shark’s skin. Damaged denticles could make sharks more vulnerable to infection or injury. As carbon dioxide levels in the oceans increase, upping the acidity of the water, shark teeth and scales may begin to corrode, compromising their ability to hunt, feed, and swim.
Some scientists are now finding that sharks are swimming longer than they would have in waters with a normal pH. If I was a shark, I would get away from acid too and find cleaner waters in which to stay! A major problem is I may still run into poachers along the way. Yes, there are those that poach sharks for the fins only and then throw the entire bloody body back in the water. Without fins, the shark is unable to defend his or herself or to swim as well to get away from harm and danger. This is an extremely inhumane practice that the Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association has stood up against for quite some time.
I guess you wonder why we are against the shark finning trade if we eat sharks. That one is easy. Shark finning is done so that shark fin soup can be sold for hundreds of dollars as a delicacy in many other countries especially in Asia dating back to the Ming Dynasty. Gullah/Geechee traditions are not about making creatures nor people suffer. We are about living in balance and only taking what you need to sustain yourself and so that the family and community can subsist and exist. We are not about making profit at the expense of another living being to the exclusion of others that cannot afford to do the same. To that end, we do not promote “catch and release” fishing for sport and entertainment. We feel that once you catch a fish, you need to eat the entire fish. If you catch small fish and can immediately push them back overboard, great, but if you have injured the fish already, then eat it or use it as bait for another fish that you are catching to keep your family and community alive. Do not participate in inhumane practices that have led to over 70 million sharks being harmed per year.
If you agree with us, we hope that you will help get the United States Congress to take action on behalf of sharks during Shark Week August 9-16. It is not just about being inundated with outrageous TV thrillers and action movies about sharks or sitting and watching the educational channels that have shark broadcasting on, it is about standing up to insure that this species will exist in real life for generations to come. So, to that end, I encourage you to sign the petition by Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition and Gullah/Geechee Fishing Association partner, Oceana to stop the shark finning trade: