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Editorial: Did Hollywood Kill The Sharks? 'One Of The Most Important Creatures On Earth' Annihilated

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LOS ANGELES, California -- The following is an editorial by Patty Civalleri, Exec VP, Iemanya Oceanica:

Hollywood and the media's depiction of sharks over the past decades has made people turn away when the topic of shark extinction is broached. General fear and apathy for one of the most important creatures on earth continues to create rooting sections for a blood-starved public appetite that would like to see 'those dangerous creatures' annihilated.

A few weeks ago, some poor guy was tragically killed by a shark along the Florida coast. The media, knowing of our voracious appetite for big toothy creatures that like to munch a lunch on mankind, plastered this headline all over every newspaper and TV station from here to Timbuktu. And yes, we ate it up. But the fact is that this was merely the 14th fatal shark attack off the Florida coast since 1896 - a point that was easily obscured or omitted in many articles.

Steven Spielberg's movie "Jaws" in 1975, was the 'tipping point' for public shark hatred, and since then the public has consumed all stories, movies, documentaries and headlines that depict sharks as blood-thirsty avengers who are single-mindedly hell-bent on consuming us poor innocent skivvy-clad beach goers.

The Discovery Channel has glommed onto the ratings-grabbing nature of sharks and has discovered that educating people about sharks wasn't ratings-grabbing enough. In their zeal to educate the public as to the gnarly bloody results that can happen if you film them correctly, they have all but forgotten the actual facts: the non-gnarly, non-blood-rendering sharks, and the important role they play as regulators of the ocean's ecosystem.

Meanwhile, the Asians are sipping shark fins (in the form of shark fin soup) 'til they come out of their, well, gills. The appetite for shark fins is so voracious that it has created a hugely competitive industry. Giant fishing boats trawl the seas daily netting up sharks by the thousands. Once found, they hoist them up, slice off their fins, and throw the live animals back into the ocean to drown. Drown! Fish drowning! Because of our gotta-haves for this crazy soup, we make prey out of predators.

Not a biggie? With so many sick children in the world, why would anyone want to spend time thinking about sharks? Well how about this: over 75 million sharks are finned and DROWNED each year. How long can they possibly last at that rate? In the past decade, we have seen an 80% decline in shark populations worldwide. People don't seem to care that within 10-20 years the ocean will be equivalent to a vast underwater desert. Think of an ecosystem or food chain as being vertical: When an apex predator (top of the food chain) is removed from the ecosystem, all species below it will crumble.

As a boater, I look at the ocean where my family has enjoyed many years of fishing and frolicking, I am reminded that my grandchildren will not know this kind of enjoyment except from old movies. Their Pacific will be a wasteland where algae, because it was the least interesting meal, was left to proliferate and now dominates the once relatively clean waters. Beach-front homes will become the least desired residences because the brownish muck that rolls in every 30 seconds is not only unsightly, but the leagues of algae and goo that are left to die and rot on the beach leaves a stench that will be smellable from miles inland.

Can Hollywood step up again?

Have we lost the fight before people really understand that there is even a fight to fight? If this is to be remedied, the public will need a goose in the denims. Maybe Hollywood and the media can step up and provide some of that creative magic to sway public consciousness away from our salivary glands and onto a more comprehensive solution-causing wave of pro-action. I'd love to see not a random act of kindness by a star who was talked into doing a shark stint at the Hilton, but a real effort to come up with some clever ways of looking at the ocean and really appreciating - not fearing - the beauty and the bounty in the form of food, jobs and commerce that a balanced ocean will bring to all of us. And our grandchildren.

Iemanya Oceanica is a Woodland Hills-based non-profit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of sharks, rays and their habitats to achieve a balanced ocean.

For more information or to get involved with shark conservation, visit our website at www.Iemanya.org and www.adoptaShark.com.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

4 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

Its make me sick to the Stomach the thought of a world without Sharks, Why cant the Worlds leaders just put a Stop to it? But no like everything else they will keep Killing until its gone or beyond repair! look at our Polar Icecaps, our O-zone layer, & other large anilmals on the verge of extinction. Tigers, Polar Bears & Whales, Sharks are now as Dangerously low in numbers as the Whales were in the 80's & 90's & we put a Stop to that. Why cant we stop the Mass slaughter of Sharks! Something has to be done now, not next year or the year after!NOW NOW NOW, we seem Hellbent on Destroying our planet & the extinction of Apex predators like Sharks & Tigers is just speeding up the Process. They are the oldest creatures on the planet what right do we have to Destroy something that predates the human race by Millions of years, We dont wipe out eachother when Humans Kill each other in the Thousands day by day. but we will Kill Millions of sharks yearly because a few people get caught out in an enviroment where the Shark has been King for Hundres of millions of years & even then 9 times out of 10 its a case of mistaken identity & most attackes are brief but the Sheer size & power of theses magnificant creatures does enough to mame a Human being! I could go on & on but if something isnt done im scared to say its going to be all over for the king of the seas & the world will be a lesser place without theses Amazing Sharks
   comment# 1   - Glyn Davies · Inverness, Scotland · Mar 9, 2010 @ 7:33am

Wow! Well said! Great article. It's time those Hollywood buggers stepped to fix this problem. Even the Discovery Channel has sold-out the Sharks. This is a "MUST -READ"!
   comment# 2   - GS03 in California · VentureaMonteray, USA · Mar 10, 2010 @ 8:05am

I don't know if you are aware but it wasn't 'Hollywood' that invented Jaws. It was actually a hugely popular and very successful NOVEL written by Peter Benchley the previous year. Sharks were vilified in literature long before they were vilified on screen. Anyway, since Jaws (the movie) came out we have been fascinated by sharks (and not just horrified) far more than we ever were before and science at last got off it's backside to learn more about these magnificent creatures thanks to the Jaws craze. Very very few were bothering before and pre-Jaws only a handful of people (Ron and Val Taylor and Peter Gimbel)had took the time and effort to film great white sharks in particular. Yes you can whinge about Hollywood and Jaws being the 'tipping point' against sharks but the flip side to that is the fact that in the long run Jaws initiated a whole slew of scientific interest and endeavors which ultimately has lead to the knowledge and understanding we have now.
   comment# 3   - John Cornell · Cowes, England. · Apr 10, 2010 @ 12:37am

There are many things we can blame Hollywood for, but the pending extinction of sharks is NOT one of them. People have always feared them. Hollywood could not make their reputation any worse. And nothing says how silly the idea Hollywood is to blame then your understating the fact that we kill 75,000,000 annually to make shark fin soup.
   comment# 4   - JohnnyMorales · Harker Heights Texas USA · Jun 21, 2011 @ 1:01am
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