WHY DO SHARKS MATTER?

 

While the growing presence of great white sharks in Cape Cod waters has undoubtedly raised valid concerns and disrupted human activity, what some call an “invasion” is actually a true conservation success story. It is believed that 90 percent of the earth’s shark population was decimated in the middle of last century due to hunting and human predation. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 triggered the beginning of a resurgence period that can explain the restoration, not the invasion, of sharks in our waters.

Our ocean’s ecosystem is all connected. From the tiniest zooplankton to the largest apex predator, interconnectedness of healthy, marine populations yields balance and harmony to the entire planet. White sharks are a necessary asset to our marine environment because of their position at the top of the food chain. In fact, sharks are considered to be a keystone species ; it is believed that the destruction of shark populations would collapse the marine ecosystem.

Simply put, sharks groom the populations of their prey to sustainable levels. Without sharks, many fish populations would grow to such high levels that other marine life, and the entire balance of the ecosystem, would suffer. Research from the mid-Atlantic demonstrated that a sharp reduction in shark populations due to hunting led to an almost decimation of bay scallops, an important food source to local communities. Sharks eat the sick and weak members of their prey populations and can literally remove the threat of marine disease in a few meals. It’s also worth noting that sharks are believed to have emerged 450 million years ago; they are among the oldest living species still in existence, and they provide key biological information about the past that we can use to combat the uncertainties of the future.

The successful restoration of shark populations our waters comes with obvious challenges and threats to public safety. We believe we can {and will} adapt to the presence of white sharks on Cape Cod by the smart and strategic application of research to public policy and cultural norms.