I recently had a conversation with a friend who asked if we, Salty Girl, would ever sell shark. When I expressed to him that, no, we never would, he replied, “Excellent! I never want to see shark in the product line. There is just something about sharks”.
He’s right...there is just something about sharks. What is it about these ancient predators that makes us all at once feel an overwhelming sense of fear and awe?
“Sharks are beautiful animals, and if you're lucky enough to see lots of them, that means that you're in a healthy ocean. You should be afraid if you are in the ocean and don't see sharks.”
-Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer and Marine Biologist
Sharks are top predators and vital to maintaining balance in ocean ecosystems. They play the ecological role that many of the top predators we’re familiar with on land--lions, tigers, and wolves--play in the ocean. As Sylvia suggests above, sharks are often an indicator of the health of marine ecosystems.
For millennia, humans have respected, feared, and revered sharks. The unique traits, evolved over 400 million years, that set sharks apart from other fishes have led to their rise in dominion over the seas. Sharks belong to a class of fish without bones, the cartilaginous fishes. Their skin is covered with denticles - small, toothlike projections - which help keep their shape and provide protection. Inventors and scientists have been inspired by shark skin for centuries, influencing developments in technology from renewable energy to performance swimwear.
Sharks have the unique ability among fish to give birth to live young--a trait known as ovoviviparity--in which eggs are formed and hatched inside the mother and live young are birthed into surrounding waters (it’s just so cool). As a rule, they’re relatively slow growing, late to mature, and have few offspring. It’s for this reason that sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing.
Many species and populations of sharks are under extreme pressure. In many instances, sharks around the world are harvested only for their prized fins-- used to prepare shark fin soup-- the rest of their bodies discarded back to the sea as waste. Even the whale shark, the largest fish on the planet, is threatened by this horrific practice. Sharks are subject to intense overfishing throughout our oceans, threatened by shark finning, bycatch (incidentally being caught by fishermen targeting other species), and illegal and unregulated fishing; a global estimate places the combined international shark catch at upwards of 73 million sharks annually.
There are some animals who capture our hearts, our imaginations; who earn our respect. Regardless of their numbers, our recognition of and reverence for these animals means that we’d rather enjoy them in the wild than on our dinner plates. It seems my friend was right. There is just something about sharks.
Salty Girl Seafood seeks to have a positive impact on oceans by working at both ends of the spectrum-- on the supply side, by working intentionally and selectively to choose the fisheries we source from, and on the demand side by educating consumers and sharing with them the importance of making informed decisions about their seafood. As consumers, we have the power to support businesses and organizations that reduce, mitigate, and work to abolish unsustainable and environmentally damaging practices.