Bloodthirsty, ruthless, killer: shark. For years people have feared and slaughtered sharks because of the bad rap they have received from Hollywood, but these beliefs are not justified.
Sharks are not vicious and are actually quite gentle. Of the more than 388 species of sharks only two (the Great White and the Tiger) have been known to attack man and then only because of mistaken identity. Wetsuits and surfboards used by surfers are mistaken by sharks as the thick, rubbery, skin of seals, which are their main diet. Once the shark bites the surfer, it almost immediately lets go because it does not taste like its favorite meal.
Not all big sharks have huge jaws full of teeth, as many people believe. Whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, are the most affable creatures you will encounter in our world's oceans. These sharks (that can weigh over three thousand pounds and grow up to five stories in length) have no teeth at all. Instead they have a mouth full of baleen that they use to filter plankton and tiny fish out the hundreds of gallons of sea water that passes through their monstrous mouths at one time. These peaceful giants have been known to let divers ride on their backs and don't show any aggression when approached.
People should treat sharks with respect, as they should all earth's creatures. The only way for future generations to learn to appreciate these magnificent creatures (instead of fear them) is through education. This can be accomplished through programs which highlight the good points about sharks, instead of the myths surrounding them. Another way is to make ocean research available to all people - everyone should have the chance to learn the truth about sharks. ^
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.