We’ve all seen the movie Jaws and Deep Blue Sea – and who could forget the classic Sharknado franchise that took the world by storm in 2013. For nearly 50 years, we have been portraying sharks a the bloodthirsty villains of the sea. But as usual, reality is quite different from the fictions we see on T.V. – sharks are the victims and we are the villains in this story.

Oceana, an organization dedicated to studying our oceans and protecting them, recorded three fatalities from shark attacks between the years of 2006 and 2010.  On the other hand, 100 million sharks are slaughtered by humans every year. Most fall prey to the shark fin trade. Once captured, the fins are cut off of these poor animals and their corpses are thrown away or used for chum. The fins are then sold to be cooked in soup – this sounds like the plot to a bad slasher film right?

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This photo from Shawn Heinrichs, taken in a warehouse that stocks fins, shows the grave reality our fantasies hide.

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And while we are killing millions of sharks for soup, the sharks that are left perform an essential role in the ocean’s delicate ecosystem. Sharks are apex predators and which means that they are indispensable to maintaining a balance in the marine populations around the world. Sharks are also essential to the carbon cycle – they feed on the animals that consume the carbon-storing vegetation on the ocean’s floor so without sharks, this vegetation will disappear and the oceans will be oversaturated with carbon. So sharks are helping us fight climate change as well.

Despite all of the incredible things sharks do, currently 200 out of the 400 shark species that inhabit our oceans are endangered. And we continue to slaughter millions of these incredible animals every year. It’s time we rethink our relationship with sharks otherwise we will go down in history as the villains.

Image source: Shawn Heinrichs/Instagram