2020 has been a very strange and emotional year for all of us, above the surface and below. While we have been stuck in lockdown, sharks have been falling victim to numerous dangers caused by humans. Sharks are under more threat than ever before, and I’m here to show you 10 simple ways that you can help conserve sharks without even leaving your couch – how COVID-19 friendly!
1. Sign Petitions
Signing petitions that demand protection of shark populations worldwide is the quickest thing that you can do to make a difference right now.
A petition being organized by Change.org needs all hands on deck to ban fishing on the high seas surrounding the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador. If you are not familiar with what is happening, there are over 200 fishing vessels operating at the edge of the protective zone. The Galapagos Islands are one of the largest biodiverse ecosystems in the world, being home to many species of shark. These vessels are practicing unsustainable fishing practices, resulting in the bycatch of thousands of sharks and completely decimating the shark populations in a protected area.
Click here to sign the petition.
For more petitions check out Support our Sharks, they take the time to gather any and all petitions surrounding shark conservation. I even found some concerning my home country, you may be surprised by what you find.
2. Get Involved with Conservation Groups
There are many conservation organizations making a big impact daily, and you can get involved with just the click of a button.
Like with us! Marine Conservation Costa Rica runs numerous conservation programs that you can join once the travel bans are lifted. In the meantime, you can Adopt a Coral! Coral reefs are home to sharks, they use them to graze and hunt for food, keeping the ecosystem of the reef balanced. By adopting a coral, you are supporting our coral restoration project that is bringing life back to our reef. With your purchase, you will have the opportunity to name your little coral and receive a certificate with all of its information, even the GPS location!
PADI has been a long time partner with Project AWARE, a global movement committed to ocean protection. They make it super easy to donate to their initiatives, and they invest 25% of their donations into shark and ray conservation.
Other conservation groups that we know and love are Sea Shepherd, Fins Attached, and Sharkwater, so check ’em out.
3. Adopt a Shark
This is a fun and unique way to do your part in conserving sharks, plus it would make a great gift for someone special!
There are a few companies that allow you to “adopt a shark,” such as Oceana and Shark Trust. You give a small donation in exchange for an adoption pack and certificate telling you all about the shark that you have just helped sponsor. The majority of proceeds go toward shark research and conservation. I call that a win, win.
4. Reduce Your Seafood Consumption
Large scale commercial fishing practices negatively impact shark populations in multiple ways. Humans like to eat boney fish, and inconveniently so do sharks, so by fishing on a large scale we are depleting their primary source of food. Sustainable fishing is important because sharks often become victims of hooks or nets which are meant for other fish, but they become entangled while chasing an easy meal. By simply reducing your consumption of seafood, you can reduce the number of sharks killed each year.
5. Choose Sustainable Seafood
Unsafe fishing practices and bycatch pose the largest threat to our world’s sharks. Bycatch is when a fish or other marine species are accidentally caught while fishing for something else. This is most common with commercial long-line fishing. According to WWF, 3.3 million sharks are victims of bycatch every year, and that’s only in the Pacific Ocean! Do your research and choose to buy fish from properly managed and sustainably run fishermen. Buy small, and buy locally.
Pro Tip: If you are from the United States, The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a great guide to sustainable seafood in every state in their Seafood Watch Consumer Guide, just select your state and numerous options will appear for your area!
6. Education Is Power
Learn as much as you possibly can about sharks, learn about their habitats, their behavior, different species, and then educate yourself on how human practices are putting them in danger. Investing in your own education is powerful, it builds knowledge, creates confidence, and opens countless doors of opportunity. The more educated you are about them, the more ways you can find to help Conserve sharks. Plus, you might just inspire someone to do the same.
7. Use Your Voice
Social media is not just a place for stories, status updates, and pictures. It is also a powerful tool that you can use as a platform for your voice. Start sharing photos, articles, and updates about sharks. Even if you catch the attention of one person, you have done your job. As Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love,” so show people that sharks are intelligent creatures worth protecting.
Spread the word – an ocean without sharks is more frightening than an ocean with sharks.
8. Vote Wisely
Support legislation that stops shark fishing, protects ecosystems, and ends unsustainable fishing practices. Before election day, make sure to research your local candidate’s values and promises. Use your right to elect officials who actively support ocean and marine life conservation.
9. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Sharks become entangled in plastic fishing gear and other plastic materials, often leading to irreversible damage or death. Also, sharks often confuse plastic for food, and so do the smaller fish who the sharks then eat, resulting in all levels of the food chain ingesting plastics.
So, what can you do? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle of course!
The most common forms of trash found on land and underwater clean-ups by us are bottle caps, straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, food wrappers, and bottles/cans.
1. Purchase reusable drink and food containers, beeswax wraps are a great alternative to cling wrap.
2. Buy a reusable bag such as one made from cotton or recycled materials.
3. Contact your local recycling depot and become familiar with what materials they can and cannot recycle.
10. Check Your Cosmetics
Yep, you read that right!
Chances are that you’ve used cosmetics or sunscreens containing shark products before, you just didn’t know it. The ingredient to look out for is “squalene,” which is shark liver oil. Squalene is most commonly used in anti-aging creams, hair treatments, lipsticks, sunscreen, and many others.
According to The Rob Stewart Sharkwater Foundation, about 50 different species of shark are fished for their liver oil, even species that are considered endangered such as the deep-sea shark, because their liver is 20% of their body weight.
Before you buy your next product, check to see that it has the “cruelty-free” stamp or that it is a vegan / plant-based product.
Make Big Waves For Change!
We know that getting out there and doing hands-on conservation work is hard at the moment with travel bans, restrictions, and lockdowns. Although, these 10 easy things are impacts that you can make right now, without leaving your bed or couch, to ensure a better future for our oceans and our sharks! Once restrictions ease, plan a beach cleanup with friends, go diving with sharks, or plan a volunteer holiday to learn more about our ocean’s diverse ecosystems! The sharks are counting on you.