Shark Week Series: Mindful Eating Machines | Conservation Law Foundation

Shark Week Series: Mindful Eating Machines

Robin Just

Great white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts. (Photo credit: Green Massachusetts)

Let’s be honest. When we talk about great white sharks, we are usually talking about their appetites. White sharks have been found with a number of thought-provoking objects in their stomachs, including a partial suit of armor and an engine block. But what they really like is large, fatty ocean going animals: tuna, seals and sea lions, rays, whale carcasses. These are not always easy to catch, so sharks employ a number of hunting strategies, including a sneak attack from behind (shudder) and rushing up from the depths (double shudder). So, while their feeding style can be quite lively, and more than a little intimidating, scientists believe it is usually a case of “mistaken identity” when a shark bites a human, not mindless, malicious predation. White sharks are visual predators, and sometimes we humans do a fairly good seal impersonation. Often, once the shark realizes there has been a misunderstanding, it will move on to something tastier. Don’t get me wrong; I am not recommending anyone take their chances in the water with these big fish. If there is a shark sighting at your favorite beach, please stay out until you hear it’s safe again. I know they’re out there, but it gives me a bit of comfort to think that if they REALLY wanted to eat us then we’d know about it by now.

Shark survival, and hopefully I’ve convinced you by now that this is a good thing, is dependent on a robust, thriving food chain. Overfishing, coastal pollution (especially nutrient pollution), and the byproducts of power generation are severely impairing our near shore and blue water ecosystems. Coastal areas function as nurseries for ocean going fish, birds, and other marine life. So a small area of degradation can have a big effect out to sea. Protecting sensitive coastal ecosystems is protecting the bottom of the food chain. The things at the bottom feeds the things we like to eat (shellfish, cod, striped bass), the things we like to see (seals, whales), and things we maybe don’t want around, but are good anyway (sharks). CLF is working to protect these important ecosystems. From supporting our National Ocean Policy, to fighting dirty emissions that create unhealthy acidic water, to promoting healthy estuaries, CLF is on the forefront of efforts to protect our oceans and keep their waters clean and productive for generations to come.

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