The more knowledge that swimmer, divers, surfers and researchers have on sharks, the more likely they are to be able to protect these valuable species. It also acts as a protection for themselves as they understand the conditions under which a shark will attack as well as its possible motivation, although attacks are very rare occurrences. There are several myths around sharks, which need to be disproved:
1.All shark species have to swim to stay alive – This is only true of some species, while others are able to rest on the ocean floor, pumping water over their gills deliberately to maintain their oxygen levels, rather than having to move through the water to do this.
2.Sharks have bad eyesight – Sharks have been shown to be able to distinguish between colours and their lens is up to seven times more powerful than that of humans. In addition, there are several shark species whose ability to see in very dim light far outweighs that of people’s.
3.Most sharks will kill or attack people – There are only a few shark species that have been known to make attacks on human swimmers or divers. The vast majority of sharks do not even approach people in the water because they are shy or because they are in the depths of the open ocean. The species considered to be dangerous to humans are the Great White, Bull and Mako sharks. The Oceanic Whitetip Shark is considered to be the most dangerous species to people.
4.Sharks are unintelligent – In fact, sharks have been found to learn behaviour, express curiosity and remember information (such as location and response to certain stimuli). Sharks can be trained to perform in certain ways. This indicates intelligence and not a dependence only on instinct.
Engraving of “Blue Shark (Squalus glaucus)”published in “The New Illustrated Natural History”by Rev. J.G. Wood in 1874.
5.Shark meat is inedible – Many believe that shark meat is actually poisonous. However, it is used extensively in some parts of the world and can be rather tasty if prepared properly.
6.Sharks swim fast – although hunting sharks are capable of bursts of speed when they are in pursuit of prey, they generally cruise at low speeds in order to conserve energy. In fact, most sharks average a cruising speed of about nine kilometres an hour.
7.Sharks love human blood – Sharks do not seem to prefer any particular animal’s blood. And, once a shark has taken a bite out of human flesh, it frequently leaves the victim alone as it does not enjoy the meat. People do not have a high enough fat content for the shark, which prefers sea lions, turtles, etc…
8.Sharks eat anything – Most shark species will wait until they are able to catch their favoured prey, rather than eating just anything. Some prefer bony fish, others like squid better, while still others only eat plankton and tiny fish.
9.Sharks do not get cancer – This notion was long believed to be true and resulted in the deaths of many animals for their ‘cancer-fighting’ cartilage. However, many captured sharks and those in captivity have been found with cancerous tumours in various parts of their bodies. The incidence of cancer is increased with more pollution and toxins in the water (this is true of human beings too). Unfortunately, not everybody is informed of this discovery and people continue to kill millions of sharks every year for their cartilage as well as for their skin, flesh, teeth and liver oil.
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