As the summer months roll around, it seems like not a week goes by without one … or five … sensational headlines about the dangers of sharks. From reports of shark sightings off the coasts of popular beaches to even incidents of attacks, sharks become the target of immense media coverage as the temperatures rise – and much of this attention contributes to the great detriment of sharks.
The fact is that when sharks come into contact with humans more frequently – be it due to changes in ocean temperatures that drive sharks further inland or the expansion of human resorts/vacation venues that are seeping into shark territory – there is a much higher incidence of danger, on both sides. Sharks are powerful predators, but there is no denying that humans pose a much larger threat to the shark species overall. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are pulled from the oceans ever year due to the shark fin trade, organized culls, or commercial fishing bycatch. So while we might demonize sharks for the threat they pose to us, we would be remiss to ignore the reality that we, as a species, are pushing these marine animals to the brink of extinction.
However, thanks to a story from Cornwall, England featuring a man who came to the aid of a shark in need, we do have hope that all is not lost for the shark population.
According to ITV, Nicolas Andre was on vacation in Cornwall with his wife Ann, when he spotted the 12-foot animal in distress in shallow waters on Portreath Beach. Another beachgoer, Mark Ashmore, rushed over to help as well, both suspecting the animal was a dolphin. Upon closer inspection, Andre realized that the animal in question was not a dolphin, but a basking shark.
Although Andre explained he’d never seen a shark up close before, let alone touch one, he didn’t hesitate to wrap the animal up his t-shirt, along with the help of Ashmore, and help usher it back to the water.
He explained to ITV, “It took a few attempts to pull it into the sea as we were waiting for the waves. When it was back in the water, I took my t-shirt off the tail and it was a like a switch had been flicked – the shark just flew off.”
Andre suffered a few cuts sustained in the process of getting to the shark and moving the animal, but he stated that at no point did he find the animal to appear dangerous or aggressive. Basking sharks don’t pose a serious threat to humans, they might be large but they are filter feeders who live off plankton. Nonetheless, the stigma of the animal being a shark would be enough to deter some people from helping, however, Andre and Ashmore didn’t let any preconceptions about sharks get in the way of lending a hand!
Sharks play a critical role in maintaining ocean health and many scientists have concluded that protecting sharks is crucial to reducing the impact of climate change. We need sharks more than they need us, so it is only in our best interest to let go of our invented fear of these animals and do all we can to help them.
NOTE: As an important note, do not try to help wildlife of any sort unless you are trained. Find a local wildlife rehabber/rescuer or veterinarian ASAP, or call a rescue hotline. Here are some that might help!
All image source: Ann Andre / SWNS.com