Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A fact about sharks

... which you probably didn't know and will never hear in one of those 'monstrous sharks kill little children'-movies Hollywood is so fond of every couple of years.

Just watch this:


In case you don't want to (or can't) watch the clip (it's the first time I link to a video online, so I might get it wrong), a short summary of the facts: 10 humans are killed each year by sharks (in words: ten); 200,000,000 sharks are killed each year by humans (in words: two hundred million). That's - as you can easily see, a 2 with 8 zeros. Man, that's a number I wish I had in black on my bank account. Let's don't be greedy: say I'd gotten a cent for each shark killed last year, that'll still be two million. On the other hand if I'd gotten an Euro for each human killed last year, I'd still only have ten Euros ... that wouldn't be enough to buy the book I just ordered online.

What do we learn from this?

a) I order books online

b) I don't have 200,000,000 Euros, neither do I have 2,000,000 Euros

c) the danger sharks present to humans is highly overrated

While a) and b) probably are of no interest to you, c) should be. Let's continue to play with the numbers, shall we?

Normally it's said that our world has 5 continents (Antarctica being the mostly forgotten No. 6), so statistically only 2 persons on each continent risk being killed by a shark each year. That's two people for North America, two people for South America, two people for Europe, two people for Asia, two people for Africa (you could - and probably should - also say: two people for America, two people for Australia). Now, I haven't checked lately, but even forgotten Antarctica has more than two inhabitants, as far as I know.

On the other hand my hometown has about 40,000 inhabitants (I've checked: at the end of 2004 we were 42,757 people in my hometown, says our "Statistisches Bundesamt" ... and I doubt the number's gotten much higher during the last two years). If we were sharks, you'd need almost 5,000 times my town to get the amount of sharks killed each year by humans. At least in Germany my hometown is not considered that small. Actually, as I've just checked, Germany on the whole had 82,438,000 inhabitants at the end of 2005 (and I doubt we've grown much as a country last year), so it's even more than twice the inhabitants of Germany. There are still people out there who think only a dead German is a good German, but obviously there are more people out there who still think only a dead shark is a good shark.

Now, I'm not good with all those statistics about the ways you can get killed, but I know for sure, that driving, flying and every other outdoor activity result in more deaths each year than sharks. And even inside your home you run a higher risk of dying than by meeting a shark.

So why do people still think sharks are that dangerous? Just two words: public relations.

When did you last hear something positive about sharks? Come on, think, there must have been something. No? Right, proves my point...

The only good things you even hear about sharks is that their bodies may contain the keys to curing some serious diseases, like cancer. But most sharks are not killed because people want to find a cure for cancer, they are killed for sports ... or even worse: for their fins.

Finning is the worst thing you can do to any living creature. Imagine swimming somewhere in the ocean. The only thing you're thinking about is your next meal ... and maybe the cute female shark you met a couple of hours ago. Then you get pulled out of the water - and as a fish you can't breathe air, it's pretty much like being pulled underwater for a human - and people with knives bent over you. They cut off your fins: the two on the back and the four on the sides. Then, while you're bleeding profoundly, they simply throw you back into the water. But you don't have the time to die on your own. No, your shark colleagues zoom in on you - somewhere in the crowd you spy the cute she-shark from a couple of hours ago - and rip you to pieces because now you're bleeding and dying, just like any other fish. The monsters in this tale aren't the other sharks, they just act on their instincts: it's bleeding, it's dying, let's eat it! The real monsters are the humans doing this to a living creature.

And what for? A couple of fins that get dried and are the main ingredient to a soup. Now the worst part of this is: the fins themselves have no taste at all. They are heavily spiced and there's a lot more added to the soup, like vegetables and noodles. In essence the fin is that part of the soup you can't define once you bite on it.

Yes, I know, sharks are not cute and they are not cuddly. They don't look as furry as a young lion or a young tiger. But what would our oceans be without sharks? They're an important force in our ecosystem. Let's just hope we don't end up in a world where the movie "Jaws" stands right next to "Jurassic Park" and other movies about dinosaurs, showing creatures from a time long past. The world has survived the end of the dinosaurs, but I'm not sure it will survive the end of the sharks as well...

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