Humans have a very peculiar way of thinking of animals. Despite the similarities we have witnessed time and time again across species, humans insist on splitting them into arbitrary groups. There are “food” animals like pigs, chickens, and cows, and there are “companion” animals like dogs and cats. There are “scary” animals like sharks and bats, and there are “cute” animals like koalas and pandas. When we get caught up in these groundless differentiations, we promote stereotypes and ideas that are simply not true and we harm some of the animals we should be protecting most.
Just look at New York Governor Cuomo, who demonstrated utter ignorance by sharing this photo of himself proudly standing next to a bloody Thresher shark he caught over the weekend. The fact that Thresher sharks are endangered just makes the whole situation even more facepalm-worthy.
Amazingly enough, despite the fact that this species of shark is endangered, it is technically legal to hunt them in New York, a fact that Cuomo’s spokesman quickly pointed out when the governor received major backlash for the photo on Twitter. This contradictory thinking is the exactly why a person will condemn trophy hunting but be totally okay with someone catching a shark or like Cuomo, sign a bill that bans shark fin sales but then kill a shark.
Cuomo’s action is not only upsetting, it’s wildly irresponsible and completely insults all of the efforts that are being made to save sharks and the fact that their survival is closely tethered to ours. Sharks play a very important role in our ecosystem. They are apex predators who keep populations of their prey in check, weeding out the weak and sick animals to keep the overall population healthy. They also keep the levels of other marine species who would otherwise consume large amounts of the oceans’ carbon-storing vegetation down to a manageable level. That’s right, sharks are fighting climate change for us.
Despite all of these facts, shark populations are diminishing at a startling rate. According to the Shark Foundation, 100 out of 400 shark species are being commercially exploited and some types of sharks have suffered a shocking 98 percent decline in their numbers during the past fifteen years alone. With figures like this, you would think that we would be doing everything in our power to keep shark numbers up. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While there are many people who are helping the cause, at the same time, there are idiots dragging sharks out of the ocean for selfies, there are shark-fishing competitions being held, and there are places around the world that insist on keeping the shark fin trade alive. People are simply not waking up to the fact that we need sharks just as much as they need us.
We are extremely disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s actions and the clear lack of judgment that fueled the decision to share the photo of his deed. Shark conservationists already have a hard enough time helping people see past shark’s scary rep and realize how important they are to the ecosystem as a whole. At the very least, this incident has spurred a much-needed conversation about sharks. Keep it going by sharing this article and raising awareness about the importance of saving sharks!
Image source: Andrew Cuomo/Twitter