LWL | Saving Sharks: Our Impact on Marine Life

By Natalia González

Have you ever considered how humans and everything humans do affect marine life? Well if you haven’t, why not give it some thought? In what ways are they suffering because of human beings and global warming caused by us? And how are we destroying their homes? Many sea animals die every day due to human beings invading their habitat. Some of these animals are forced to migrate to different locations because their habitat was destroyed by trash or the climate change affected the water’s temperature so much that it made it uninhabitable. Our actions affect their habitats so much that they need to find a new home. We should start thinking about the consequences of our actions, not only on marine life but also on every ecosystem on Earth. We could find ways to have a normal lifestyle without harming these animals while doing it. By finding ways to protect marine life, we can help them find a safe and nice environment where they can live.

In what ways do global warming and human activities affect sharks and their habitats? If you didn’t know, some animals who are very affected by our doings are sharks. Their habitats are getting destroyed and polluted, forcing them to migrate somewhere else. Climate change is another reason why sharks are forced to migrate to a variety of different places because the temperature changes to one that they aren’t used to. Some sharks are even seen at seashore because the water temperature there is suitable for them to survive and they feel comfortable with it, so obviously many shark attacks will happen due to this. However, is it really their fault that their home became uninhabitable? Not really. It's not their fault. We are the ones at fault since we are the ones invading their natural habitat. Global warming and human activities affect sharks and their habitats causing them to migrate due to it being destroyed, polluted, temperature changes, and more, making it uninhabitable. As said before, if we find ways to keep living a normal life without destroying animal habitats, we can help them survive more and also help us avoid more shark attacks at the seashore in the future. 

If you weren’t aware, sharks are all slowly dying and some species are going extinct. This is all because of ocean pollution, global warming, overfishing, etc, but mainly, because of global warming. The ocean’s temperature has a major effect on shark’s physiological and metabolic functions, but this makes it difficult to understand how their bodies will react to a change in temperature since it hasn’t been properly recorded; “it depends on their preferred habitats, diet, and swimming abilities” (Impacts of Climate Change on Sharks and Rays, Dr. Simon Pierce). Some shark species, pelagic sharks, swim toward poles to be able to maintain the proper temperature to survive. These species have a narrow preferred temperature range,meaning that if the temperature rises, they will swim to a different place where the temperature is their preferred one. They also have a high metabolism, meaning that if they stay where the temperature is rising, their metabolism will also rise. They will also need to swim faster than normal to have enough oxygen to live. This just proves how much climate change can affect these animals. When the temperature is higher, they need to put a lot more effort into surviving a temperature that is not appropriate for their bodies. Each one of us can make a change by taking better care of our planet and reducing climate change. One good step to begin with would be that we could start by ensuring that there are safe and comfortable areas where sharks can go when their preferred habitat has changed due to this climate change.

As mentioned before, one of the big causes of sharks slowly becoming extinct is because of ocean pollution. By ocean pollution, it means plastic, chemicals, and other toxic and harmful materials. Every day, people dump trash in the ocean, such as the ones mentioned, which cause harm to every living organism in the ocean. Sharks may accidentally digest any of these pollutants when eating. Some of these toxic pollutants, which are constantly found in sharks, are organic(such as organochlorines) and inorganic substances(such as heavy metals). A shark who digested these pollutants can transfer them to their pups. These pollutants can cause the pups to be ill for the rest of their life, as well as their future pups. Not only are they transferred down, but sharks are still consuming pollutants in their daily life, which harm them even more than just being ill because of them. Oil platforms are being built underwater which are a threat to sharks and many other animals. Oil spills aren’t very common, but when they do happen, they can kill most animals near the area. A large amount of oil can spill from any of these platforms probably due to them not being built properly and animals near the platforms will digest the oil and become ill. Rubbish is also constantly found in oceans. This rubbish is the one that is mainly thrown into the oceans. The majority of this rubbish consists of plastics, plastics in which sharks can get their fins stuck, plastics with which sharks can accidentally cut their fins with, plastics that sharks eat accidentally, etc., causing them to have trouble moving around or become ill, and if they have trouble moving around it’s more likely that they will die on the spot. Any of these things may not have been intentional, maybe there was a piece of trash on the floor and the wind picked it up and led it to the ocean, or the oil spills may have been because the platforms weren’t built properly so an accident happened. However, these things show how human beings don't take care of our planet properly. To maintain our oceans clean and save shark’s lives, we should clean the beach and dispose of any trash found, make sure that platforms are built properly so that oil spills won’t happen, and find better things to do with the trash instead of throwing it out in the ocean.

When fishing, fishers always have a specific target (or targets) of fishes they want to catch. Sometimes, fishers catch fish that they didn’t mean to catch. Some of these fish that were accidentally captured are sharks. Most sharks are released after their unwanted capture, but some of them die after their release because of how much time they spent out of the water. Other sharks that were accidentally captured are actually kept and sold for their meat, skin, etc. instead of released, leaving less and less sharks in the ocean. Sharks reproduce slowly, meaning that if we keep killing sharks daily, they will slowly become extinct, which means that we are overfishing. When a fisher has a shark, they mainly cut off the fin for shark-fin soup and then dispose of the rest of the body by throwing it to the ocean again, this is what sharks are mainly wanted for. It is estimated that at least 100 million sharks are taken from the oceans, most of it is illegal fishing. Honduras is one of the seven sanctuaries in the world that protects sharks from being hunted down. These are one of the things that each country could at least try to do to protect sharks and help them not become extinct. One of the things with which we could start to protect sharks would be to try and get most countries to be sanctuaries that protect sharks all around the world.

To conclude with my point on the ways that sharks are affected by global warming and human activities, marine life is heavily affected by everything we do, especially sharks. By intruding into their habitats, polluting them, and destroying them, we are slowly killing each one of them. Sharks are forced to try and adapt themselves to new temperatures and new habitats because of us. The increase in shark attacks is proof that what we’ve done is what caused many of these attacks by causing them to migrate nearer to human land which is where they prefer to stay since, obviously, they’ve lost their homes and are forced to live where they feel the most comfortable, even though it’s dangerous for us. We have to acknowledge and take into consideration everything that we’ve done to harm these animals without us noticing.

By reducing ocean pollution, controlling oil spills faster and avoiding them, creating more sanctuaries, and controlling overfishing problems, we can provide a safer and nicer environment for sharks and other animals around them that are also being harmed by these things. Each one of us can do simple tasks every day, such as throwing trash where it belongs, educating one another about what we can and can’t do when swimming in the ocean, protecting our environment, etc. which can make a significant impact. These efforts will not only benefit the shark's life and marine life, but also it will have a benefit on our lives since we will be able to live a healthier life. Protecting the ocean and marine life will not only mean that we are saving lives under the sea, but we will also see a change in our planet after we take better care of it to save ourselves and our dear animals on land and in water who everyday suffer from the consequences of our actions. If we act now and make a positive change for our environment, we can create a better future for everyone and everything on Earth, both in water and on land.

Works Cited

Pierce, Dr. Simon. “Impacts of Climate Change on Sharks and Rays.” Marine Megafauna Foundation, 2023, https://marinemegafauna.org/human-threats-sharks-rays/climate-change. Accessed 9 June 2024.

Pierce, Dr. Simon. “Impacts of Overfishing on Sharks and Rays.” Marine Megafauna Foundation, 2023, https://marinemegafauna.org/human-threats-sharks-rays/overfishing. Accessed 9 June 2024.

Pierce, Dr. Simon. “Impacts of Tourism on Sharks and Rays.” Marine Megafauna Foundation, 2023, https://marinemegafauna.org/human-threats-sharks-rays/tourism. Accessed 9 June 2024.

Save our seas foundation. “Overfishing.” World of Sharks, 2021, https://saveourseas.com/worldofsharks/threats/overfishing. Accessed 12 June 2024.