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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2000

Sharks and Humans

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

Does your mother wear lipstick? Does your father wear a belt? Are your grandparents taking vitamins to stay healthy? Do you have friends who like to go to Japanese restaurants and eat sushi? Have you ever seen people from a foreign country beating on a drum?

                If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then sharks have had an impact on your life. Sharks help humans in more ways than you might think. In some countries, sharkskin is stretching over barrels to make drums. Oils from sharks are put in lipstick, and a chemical compound (squalene) produced by sharks is added to moisturizing creams. Shark oil contains vitamin E and is a popular food Supplement. Sharkskin can be treated to manufacture belts, shows, and purses. Shark meat often is eaten raw (as Sushi), and shark fins are cooked to make a special kind of soup. The corneas from the eyes of sharks even have been used for transplants to replace human corneas.

                Of course, sharks and humans interact in other ways, too. For example, on occasion sharks have been known to attack people. Hollywood has portrayed sharks as fierce, man-eating animals. Yet this is mostly fiction because sharks rarely attack people (only 50-75 such attacks are reported world-wide yearly). Most attacks are “hit and run” events probably due to mistaken identity. When visibility is poor in the water, sharks think humans are animals and try to drive them from their territory. Fortunately, these attacks seldom are fatal. In “bump and bite” attacks, however, sharks circle and “bump” their victim before biting. In “sneak” attacks, sharks strike without warning because they are hungry or in a combative mood. Injuries from these attacks can be fatal.

                Humans on the other hand, kill approximately 100 million sharks a year. Because sharks reproduce slowly, there is a danger that we may kill to many. While God has designed sharks so that we can use their meat, oil, cartilage, and skin, He also has made them one of the seas’ most perfect predators. As such, they play an important part in the delicate balance of nature. In one instance, when humans killed most of the sharks, the octopus community grew too large and ate all the lobsters. This not only changed the ecology of the ocean, but affected humans as well as fishermen lost their means of making a living.

When God created sharks, He knew exactly what He was doing- as He always does! What a wise and wonderful God we Serve. And what good and wonderful gifts He has provided for us. Be sure to thank Him- even for sharks!

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