Sir Richard Branson is using Mick Fanning’s recent brush with death in South Africa to call for greater protection for all sharks. He urged in a recent blog post that “the coverage of this highly unusual event should not be used as an excuse to mount further campaigns to kill even more sharks.” Fanning fought off a shark during the J-Bay Open surfing competition by punching the shark and then swimming away. Though he escaped unharmed, Fanning has said that it could be months before he can get back into the water.
In his blog post about the event, Branson praises Fanning for his bravery but also says, “Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare. I have swum with many species of sharks on many occasions, including tiger sharks and great white sharks. I have always found it a remarkable, peaceful experience, and I wholeheartedly believe they have no interest in humans as food.”
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Humans, on the other hand, have an extreme interest in sharks as food, killing up to 100 million per year. Most sharks are sought out for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, but some species are targeted for their meat, oil, and cartilage. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature a quarter of sharks and their close relatives are threatened with extinction.
“By removing sharks from reef ecosystems, which have been swimming there for 440 million years, the natural food web is broken. Fewer sharks in the ocean results in less healthy coral, and therefore fewer fish, which damages food security, hurts the health of the ocean and reduces tourism dollars too,” Branson said in his blog post. “We need to introduce more shark sanctuaries, establish stronger global protections and tackle the demand for shark fin soup and other shark products. We absolutely do not need to kill more sharks.”
Branson’s view is shared by a group of shark attack survivors, called Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation, who volunteer their time to educate the public and lobby for greater protection for sharks.
Via The Guardian
Lead images via Amada44, divers with shark image via Albert Kok, shark fin image via Cloneofsnake.