Many people are terrified of sharks, which is understandable due to the negative media portrayal of them. Most depictions and coverage of sharks suggest that they are violent, dangerous creatures that kill indiscriminately. However, sharks actually have a natural fear of humans and only attack when they mistake humans for marine animals. Furthermore, humans kill way more sharks every year than sharks kill humans (the difference is tens vs. millions.)

Sharks are not inherently violent or aggressive. They are sentient creatures that deserve respect and care. Plus, they are crucial to keeping the underwater ecosystem in balance.

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Check out these 10 amazing videos of shark and ocean conservationists interacting with sharks. They will completely change your perception of sharks and make you develop an appreciation for these misunderstood animals.

1. Diver, Iñaki Aizpun,  Removes Net from Shark’s Mouth

Source: The Dodo/Youtube

While on a dive, Iñaki Aizpun noticed a shark who had a fishing net hanging out of his mouth. The shark seemed weak and Iñaki knew that if he didn’t do anything, the shark wouldn’t survive as nets often keep entangled animals from being able to eat. When Iñaki swam up to free the shark, the distressed animal seemed to understand what was going on and allowed Iñaki to help him. It took a few attempts, but finally, Iñaki was able to pull the huge net from the shark’s mouth! Now Iñaki educates people about the harm that ocean pollution causes and encourages people to protect marine animals by properly disposing of their trash.

2. Ocean Ramsey Swims with Huge Great White Shark

Source: TODAY/Youtube

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Marine biologist Ocean Ramsey doesn’t just study sharks to help conserve their population. She also shares breathtaking photos and footage of her swimming alongside the sharks that she studies to show people how gentle and beautiful sharks are. In January of 2019, Ramsey encountered a huge great white shark that could even be the largest one in the world. She hopes that moments like this one will help people gain an appreciation for sharks.

It’s important to note that there is some controversy surrounding Ramsey’s interaction with this shark. Some researchers say that she should not have touched the shark. Ramsey defends her actions saying that “sometimes sharks seek touch” and “it’s not petting sharks or pushing them off to maintain a respectable space that is hurting sharks … it’s the wasteful and cruel practice of grabbing and catching sharks to cut off their fins.”

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3. Affectionate Shark Has Been Visiting this Diver, Jim Abernethy, for 20 Years

Source: The Dodo/Youtube

Jim Abernathy started diving at a young age, which fueled his passion for conservation. He now uses his photography, videography, and dive expeditions to show people what sharks are really like and encourage them to become shark advocates themselves. While diving, Abernethy noticed a 15-foot long tiger shark that would come closer and closer each time. Eventually, he was able to pet her head and started removing the hooks that she would inevitably get in between his visits. Over time, they built up a trusting relationship and now he says that the shark, who he named “Emma,” follows him around like a labrador retriever. Abernethy calls her a “gentle giant” because she is playful and loves to get her head rubbed, just like a dog would.

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4. Randel Sands Cleans Up Ocean Trash so Sharks Don’t Get Caught

Source: The Dodo/Youtube

Randel Sands is an airline captain who has a passion for the ocean and its conservation. During one of his dives, Sands saw a nurse shark that was stuck in a coral reef due to the fishing lines that were wrapped around her. He and his fellow divers carefully untangled her to set her free. Now, Sands makes it his mission to pick up trash every time he’s in the water so that he prevents some animals from getting entangled or consuming plastic.

5. Cristina Zenato Has Removed More Than 300 Hooks From Sharks During Her Dives

Source: The Dodo/Youtube

Cristina Zenato has been a diver for 26 years and she’s spent 25 of those years with sharks. Zenato loves sharks and as soon as she noticed how many had hooks attached to them, she knew that she had to do something to help. In order to relieve these poor sea creatures of their pain, Zenato started removing the hooks from sharks. One shark, named Foggy Eye, had one inside her mouth, but Zenato didn’t let that stop her. She reached her hand into Foggy Eye’s mouth and took the hook out. After the initial shock, Foggy Eye returned to her savior and offered her head for pets. Since that day, Foggy Eye never failed to show up during Zenato’s dives to say hi. As Zenato removed hooks, more and more sharks kept showing up. She now has a box with over 300 hooks that she has removed from sharks during her dives!

6. Surfer, Mike Coots, Lost His Leg in a Shark Attack and Became a Shark Conservationist

Source: Mark Bisi/The Dodo/Youtube

When Mike Coots was only 18-years-old, he was attacked by a tiger shark while surfing. Fortunately, he was able to escape, but the tiger shark had completely taken off the lower half of his leg. Immediately after Coots’ recovery, he was back in the water and started researching about sharks as well as why he might have been attacked. What he found shocked him. After learning about how many humans kill sharks every year – around 100 million – Coots started to get involved in shark conservation. He has worked on a shark conservation bill and also takes beautiful portraits of sharks to show people that sharks aren’t monsters; they are sentient, intelligent animals that are vital to the ocean.

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7.  Madison Stewart Has Been Swimming and Advocating for Sharks Since She Was Just 14 

Source: Madison Stewart/Youtube

Madison Stewart started diving when she was 12-years-old and 2 years later, she left school to be homeschooled so she could spend more time underwater. She started filming marine life and developed a special appreciation for sharks. After learning about a shark fishery that could legally harvest 100,000 sharks from the Great Barrier Reef every year, she knew that she had to do whatever she could to help these amazing animals. In addition to using her camera to give people a more personal look at sharks, Stewart is also the founder of Project Hiu, which helps provide alternative incomes to shark fishermen through tourism.

8. Jillian Morris Inspires Kids to Care About Sharks Too

Source: Great Big Story/Youtube

Jillian Morris snorkeled with her first shark at just 8-years-old. She went on to become a marine biologist, shark conservationist, scuba instructor, and explorer. Morris has also filmed and photographed for multiple media outlets. Inspired by her own experiences with sharks at a young age, Morris founded Sharks4Kids to educate a younger generation about sharks and the threats that they face. Morris especially loves Hammerhead sharks and is grateful anytime that she has the chance to dive with them.

9. Shark Addicts Remove Hook from Shark’s Mouth

Source: truly/Youtube

Divers Cameron Nimmo and Randy Jordan were on a dive when they saw a six-foot-long Silky Shark with a fishing hook on his mouth. They were able to gently remove the hook, thereby easing the shark’s discomfort. According to these divers, almost 75 percent of the sharks that they encounter during their dives have fishing hooks attached to them. The divers care so much sharks and their conservation that they started Shark Addicts to educate the public about sharks, finning, and culling. By taking people on dive expeditions in Florida, they hope to not only change public perception of sharks, but also show the government that protecting sharks is much more valuable than allowing companies to kill them for shark fin soup.

10. Sea Shepherd Saves Shark From Illegal Gill Net

Source: Sea Shepherd/Youtube

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is an amazing organization that has been saving marine animals and protecting the ocean for over 40 years. They use direct action to expose and confront fishermen and poachers who are using illegal fishing practices. They also educate the public through videos of their work and other actions. In this video, they found an illegal driftnet off the coast of Alicudi Island and worked with the Italian Coast Guard to confiscate the net. They found over 40 dead animals in the net. One animal, a blue shark, was alive and they were able to release him back into the ocean.

What Can You Do

These conservationists and divers do incredible work! Hopefully, they inspired you to advocate on behalf of sharks and change people’s negative perceptions of them. Just remember, these are all professionals who have a lot of experience with diving and marine animals. They know how to keep themselves, the animals, and the ocean unharmed. Make sure to always keep a large distance between yourself and wild animals. Interacting with them is dangerous for you and the animal themselves. Call professionals if you think an animal may be in need of help.

If you are interested in seeing these animals with professionals, you might be tempted to take part in eco-tourism, which involves traveling “to places having unspoiled natural resources, with minimal impact on the environment being of primary concern.” These trips can be beneficial to wildlife by providing money to protect animals from poachers and also offering alternative careers for people who otherwise may be forced to turn to poaching due to poverty. However, eco-tourism can also negatively impact wildlife by disturbing their habitat, stressing animals out, and making prey animals more vulnerable to predators.  It’s very easy for companies to “greenwash” their mission statements and description. If you are considering an eco-tourism expedition, do a lot of research before taking part in these trips to make sure that they aren’t actually harming the flora and fauna that they claim to be conserving. Talk to people who have gone and see if any wildlife conservationists or experts have spoken about the trips. There are so many pros and cons that need to be weighed.

Shark finning involves, mercilessly slicing off a sharks’ fins and then dropping back into the ocean, sometimes still alive. These sharks slowly sink to the bottom of the sea where they will eventually die. It is not only incredibly cruel and inhumane, but also one of the biggest threats to sharks. Shark fins are used for shark fin soup, which is a Chinese delicacy. While efforts have been made to reduce shark finning like campaigns against shark fin soup, the sale of shark fins persists because they can sell at up to $500 a pound.

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