By Adam Dorfman
Sharks help keep the ecosystem in balance by controlling the middle predators in the food chain. Sharks are one of the most misunderstood and feared animals in the ocean and consequently there has been very little public interest in protecting them.
Recent reports state that between 70 and 100 million sharks are killed every year, many of them for their dorsal fins alone, which are used in shark-fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Sharks are not the only animals being killed to supply the Asian market; mantas are also being targeted for their gill rakers, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
People must be convinced that marine life is worth more to local communities alive than dead, and ecotourism is one of the few ways to accomplish this task. People often have little interest in protecting things that they fear or do not understand; ecotourism educates people to help reduce their fear and misunderstanding of marine life.
In this film, I dispel the myth that sharks are man-eating monsters from the deep, waiting to attack humans at every chance. The film also shows various ecotourism destinations where dive operators are offering human-marine life interactions, which can be not only productive financially to the local communities, but also help create thousands of ambassadors for sharks and mantas. These divers have helped push through protection for endangered species that may have otherwise failed.
Staged human-marine life interaction continues to generate controversy. Despite more than 40 years of marine-life feeds in as many as 40 countries, many people would like to see shark feeding banned. Although the question of whether to feed or not to feed has been argued for many years, it’s rarely been addressed in a public forum, by qualified behaviorists, researchers and science-based local conservation groups, in areas where feeding provides economic benefits. Human-marine life interaction has issues of course, but the benefits outweigh the negatives for both local communities and marine life.
I am living proof that marine-life interactions can change a person’s perspective on this subject; these very same ecotourism encounters inspired me to become a shark and manta conservationist. If we all contribute just a little, together we can make a huge difference in the health of our oceans and this film is my contribution to that cause. Thank you for watching!