On 14thJuly we celebrate “Shark Awareness Day” – one of these “days of the year” that emerge from social media and either disappear without trace or gather steam year-on-year. Luckily, Shark Awareness Day, dedicated to “promoting a more positive image of sharks”, appears to be falling into the second group.
The question is why do we need a day to promote a positive view of a group of animals that form an essential part of our natural world? It’s because they’re sharks…and the word “shark” comes with baggage.
In the past month, the British press got itself in a froth over the appearance of a Blue Shark near a Magaluf beach while, hot on its heels, another story claiming “new evidence” of a Great White “hunting” in British seas, did an incredible job of turning nothing into something.
Sharks get a bad rap in the press because sensational, fear-based stories sell papers but, as we have seen from recent political events, the print media is not always at the cutting edge of public opinion. If you had the time to compare shark stories on social media with those in the papers, I think you might find a different balance of attitudes. There are plenty of positive stories about sharks away from the red tops and the audience is growing – hence the growing appeal of Shark Awareness Day,
However, we must be wary of the “echo chamber”. There is little value in a situation where people (who like sharks) spend a day telling other people (who like sharks) why they like sharks.
Shark Awareness Day should go further – it’s not about “awareness”, it’s about “action”. While most of us can’t change the world on our own, collective action can have powerful impacts. Whether you decide to raise a bit of money, to join a group, to sign a petition or to participate in a citizen science project, every small action will make a difference for the future of sharks.
This Shark Awareness Day, the Shark Trust is promoting its No Limits? campaign to end the uncontrolled fishing of the Shortfin Mako in the Atlantic. This is a highly vulnerable shark, yet solutions for safeguarding its future are within our grasp.
So, if you’re interested in sharks, and you must be if you’ve read this far, please help us make 14th July a day of action for sharks as well as a day of awareness.
Visit www.sharktrust.org and click on “get involved” for more ways that you can help sharks.