Changing Perception of Sharks

For many people, the image of a shark fin gliding along the ocean’s surface is sure to cause terror. With this project, our central goal is to help change the perception of sharks from one of fear to one of appreciation for the very tangible benefits that sharks provide our ecosystems and our economies.

Around the world, these conservation victories and perspective shifts have already been achieved by remarkable projects, but there remains much work to be done. One of the most stark examples of the importance of this perspective shift is in the life and work of Peter Benchley, the author of the screenplay Jaws. In 1975, Jaws broke international box office records as millions of people watched a movie about an overly aggressive, fictionalised shark. This movie has had lasting effects on ways we think about sharks. Overnight, millions of people suddenly feared sharks and fishermen began actively killing sharks around the world.  Peter Benchley was shocked when he realised the harmful effects of negative shark portrayals, and from that point on he dedicated his career to shark conservation and education. Over the next 40 years, Peter was an outspoken and effective advocate for shark conservation. His legacy includes the annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, which supports ocean conservation leaders around the world.

In addition to the work of ocean advocates, recent scientific research has made it easier than ever to support shark conservation by reaffirming sharks as vital to our economic and ecological interests. Scientists have determined that global shark ecotourism brings in over $314 million annually, and that number is projected to double over the next 20 years! It is clear that sharks are worth much more alive than they are dead. Additionally, we’ve recently learned the risk of shark attacks is the lowest it has been in decades, contrary to the impression that can be given by sensational media reports.  Through recognition and appreciation of these facts, we can see the importance of protecting these vital species.

by Tim White

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