How many sharks are there? With 400 + species to track that’s a difficult question. So, how about this; how many white sharks are there? One study says 200 in the Pacific, another says 300, and another says three times that amount. One study says there are only 1,000 in all of South Africa, yet another study claims there are several thousand in each ocean. It would be interesting if one study could be proven as correct and infallible next to the others, but that’s not going to happen. So who’s right? I have the answer, can you guess what it is? The correct answer is NONE OF THE ABOVE.
Now, with NOAA rejecting the proposition to add Pacific white sharks to the endangered species list and some researchers backing this decision the next question is, “how many sharks is the right amount of sharks?” If the study showing there were only 200 in the Pacific turned out to be true would this be grounds for deciding that the white shark should be on the endangered species list? How about if the study claiming there are between 2 and 3 thousand in the Pacific was correct...does that mean the animal is flourishing, even overpopulating? There are 38 MILLION people in California. There are 40 thousand MORE humans in AT&T Park watching the Giants game right now than the most liberal estimate of ALL the white sharks swimming in the Pacific Ocean.
On the other hand, the white shark is at the very top of the food chain, therefore, by nature’s brilliant design the number of white sharks should be relatively low. So how many is that? This also is a rather difficult question...until the painfully obvious answer hits you in the face. The answer is that it’s not for us to decide what the right amount is. That decision is supposed to be up to the one who always gets the answer right; nature. Not humans, not NOAA, not CITES, not the finning industry, not Obama, not Premier Colin Barnett, not China, not Sea Shepherd, not me, not you. None of us.
With so much debate even within the circles of those who love sharks, much less those who’d like to see them all dead, I tried to imagine a world without human interference. How many sharks would there be in the world’s oceans in that case? Humans kill a rough estimate of between 70-100 million a year (11,000 an hour), so if humans were removed from the picture the ocean would be spilling over with sharks, right? Of course not. Nature knows what it’s doing and finds a balance. Life would abound, predator and prey would flourish, deoxygenated zones would become oxygenated, coral reefs would recover, and we wouldn’t have to grow hormone injected fish in mud pits in China for food. Our interference is the only thing between the natural world that should be and the world that is.
Circling back to NOAA’s recent decision, Australia going to bed with Japan and China, and other puzzling occurrences in the shark world, a common theme once again rears its ugly head; money. How about the argument that white sharks shouldn’t be put on the endangered species list because of the resources that would be eaten up in doing so (I heard the number 2 million dollars being thrown around)? First of all, I have heard that number is bogus. Secondly, if it is real, the problem is with the bureaucratic system that requires two million dollars to move a shark to a new status. That is a flaw in the system, not a problem to blame on the shark. Secondly, yes, many other species are in more dire trouble than the white shark and deserve immediate attention. The fact that these other species are not receiving the protection they deserve is our failure, not the white shark’s. Let’s get them all on the list. But in the meantime, please, please, don’t be celebrate when a species is rejected from the list. Every victory we can get is badly needed and overdue. At the slow rate white sharks are estimated to reproduce, once we realize they do need to be on the endangered species list it may be too late.
Oh, wait, when it’s too late is when we start to pay attention, isn’t it?