A sand tiger shark swims over the USS Tarpon in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Tane Casserley / NOAA
By John R. Platt
Here at The Revelator, we love a good shark story.
The problem is, there aren’t all that many good shark stories. According to recent research, sharks and their relatives represent one of the world’s most imperiled groups of species. Of the more than 1,250 known species of sharks, skates, rays and chimeras — collectively known as chondrichthyan fishes — at least a quarter are threatened with extinction.
That’s just what we know so far. About half of all shark species have a conservation status of “data deficient,” meaning we have no idea how well they’re doing or whether they’re at risk.
But that’s why it’s so important to tell stories about sharks. They’re our lens into issues like conservation, ocean protection, overfishing, coastal development, wildlife trafficking and so much more. And as frequently maligned species — Jaws, anyone? — sharks also help us to understand our relationship with predators that may seem scary but don’t really pose much of a threat.
Sharks also give us an opportunity to talk about people — the people living near them, the people harming them, the people who rely on them, and most importantly the experts working to understand and conserve them.
And honestly, sharks are just fascinating. They come in all manner of shapes and sizes; often boast amazing behaviors; serve important roles in their ecosystems; and have wide and varied reproductive strategies — some of which make them more vulnerable to exploitation. Oh, and most of them look pretty cool (although there are a few oddities in the bunch — we’re talking about you, goblin sharks).
So let’s keep talking about sharks — whether it’s during Shark Week or the other 51 weeks of the year.
With that in mind, we’ve collected our best essays and articles about sharks and related conservation issues (and we’ll add to this list as we go along). Check them out below:
Speaking of Shark Week:
Sharks and Fisheries:
Sharks and the Extinction Crisis:
Broader Ocean and Conservation Issues:
John R. Platt is the editor of The Revelator. An award-winning environmental journalist, his work has appeared in Scientific American, Audubon, Motherboard, and numerous other magazines and publications. His “Extinction Countdown” column has run continuously since 2004 and has covered news and science related to more than 1,000 endangered species. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. John lives on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., where he finds himself surrounded by animals and cartoonists.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.