The State of Our Oceans: Sharkwater (2006)/Revolution (2012)

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In 2006, Canadian conservationist and film maker Rob Stewart released Sharkwater, a powerful documentary outlining the importance of sharks for both underwater and above-water ecosystems, and the many devastating human-related activities that are threatening their lives and environments.  Firstly, huge commercial fishing ships drag lines and nets across the ocean floor, catching everything in their path and discarding the majority of the un-sellable sea life after it has already been killed.  Human-driven climate change is acidifying the oceans, which creates dead zones in our oceans and seriously disrupts undersea food chains, as well as the ability of the oceans to act as carbon banks to help mitigate global emissions of CO2.  Climate change is also causing coral bleaching, where corals become stressed in unsuitable water temperatures and eventually die, further affecting ecosystems and food chains that larger sea creatures, like sharks, depend on.  On top of this, the abhorrent shark fin trade is still running rampant in many parts of the world, decimating populations.  Sharks are so important because they act as the main predators in undersea environments, regulating food chains and consequently the functioning of ocean ecosystems.  Since the oceans regulate our climate, air quality and above-water ecosystems worldwide, disrupting these undersea environments will be absolutely devastating for life on Earth.

Rob Stewart’s latest film, Revolution, explains these issues much more in depth, and is a definite must-see.  Sadly, it only aired in theatres for one day, April 12, 2013.  But as it is such an important piece, everyone should certainly seek it out on-line.  The trailer is below:

Unfortunately, the interconnectedness of all life forms and ecosystems is often lost in popular media representations.  For example, sharks in the popular imagination of people worldwide are understood as predators; to be feared, fought, and killed before they “kill us first”.  However, as the infographic by Joe Chernov and Robin Richards below shows, sharks only kill around 12 humans globally per year, while humans kill around 100 million sharks.

Marine Policy reports:

Based on an analysis of average shark weights, this translates into a total annual mortality estimate of about 100 million sharks in 2000, and about 97 million sharks in 2010, with a total range of possible values between 63 and 273 million sharks per year.

The consequences of these unsustainable catch and mortality rates for marine ecosystems could be substantial. Global total shark mortality, therefore, needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators.

It’s time to take seriously the importance of our oceans, and of all life on Earth as it connects to and supports our global health as a whole.  We can no longer allow climate change to rise unabated, fill our seas with more CO2 than they can manage, or allow industrial food companies to unsustainably clear the oceans.  The following infographic should drive this point home:

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