Much like house cats and The Killers’ 2006 album Sam’s Town, sharks are tragically misunderstood.
Clearly, most media around sharks is profoundly negative. It doesn’t help that Hollywood and the Discovery Channel have been fanning the flames of fear around these fish for decades, causing some people to jump to seriously extreme conclusions. It makes sense, though. If your sole source of information on sharks is a mockumentary called Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, you will probably have some uninformed opinions on sharks and life in general.
What Megalodon truthers and anti-shark supporters (ASS) don’t understand is this salient truth: sharks are great. They’re a huge benefit to their respective ecosystems and ultimately, to humans, even if we don’t reciprocate the utility or compassion these good boys and girls deserve.
They’re Good at Eating
Since sharks are apex predators — meaning they’re at the top of the food chain — they play an essential role in keeping their populations in check. According to conservation program Shark Savers, sharks tend to prey on “old, sick, or slower fish,” which keeps populations from becoming dangerously high and thus harmful to the ecosystem. A side benefit is that by eating sick fish, sharks contain the spread of potentially harmful illnesses.
They Protect Seagrass
By keeping various populations in balance, sharks keep seagrass abundant for other animals to munch on. Research conducted by Florida International University marine scientist Mike Heithaus suggests tiger sharks are critically important to maintaining seagrass beds, especially during heat waves. If unusually high water temperatures kill off a bunch of seagrass, tiger sharks — which roam around these regions — will scare off turtles and dugongs, who’d love nothing more than to munch all the plants away.
Just by existing, sharks allow seagrass — an invaluable source of nutrients — to rebound in times when it’s scarce. Honestly, that’s very, very good.
They Adorn Greg Norman Shirts
Seriously, what could possibly be more innocuous than serving as the mascot for a former golfer’s T-shirt line for dads?
They Make Humans a Lot of Money
You’d think that a person fueled by Diet Coke and unbridled wealth would appreciate how critical sharks are to the economy, if nothing else. A 2017 press release from Oceana shows that in 2016 alone, shark-related diving generated over $221 Million for the state of Florida. This booming tourism industry created 3,797 jobs, more than $116 million in wages, and probably some very nice memories for the people who got to go on these trips.
Sure, sharks aren’t golden retrievers, but so what? They’re doing their goddamn best, and at the end of the day that’s all any of us can hope to do as we navigate the world in these uncomfortable, mortal coils.