Okay, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever see a hammerhead on a helter-skelter; it’s fair to say you won’t see many basking sharks see-sawing with sawfish; and woe betide the wobbegong that tries to have a go on a roundabout. But sharks need parks too. They have as much right to play in safety as anyone else, right?
That’s the basis of a great new initiative between our friends at Selfridges Project Ocean and the Zoological Society of London, looking at areas important for sharks (regionally, nationally or internationally), and seeing how we can better protect them. Shark Parks is quite simple – areas where sharks can go about their sharky business - like you know, making baby sharks - in a greater degree of safety. It’s not too dissimilar to protecting habitat on land to make sure tigers, pandas or rhinos have some sanctuary, but it’s taken us a while to get to that stage in our oceans.
But hold on a second, some of you a bit confused. Protect sharks? Don’t we need protected from sharks? Well, no, we don’t. At least not
any more than we need protected from falling
coconuts or vending machines, both of which are more deadly to us humans.
Sharks have had some bad press. Yes, Jaws didn’t help, nor do scaremongering tabloid stories in the summer silly season. The truth is that the world’s sharks have a lot more to fear from us than we do from them. They are also a much more awesome bunch of animals than they often get credit for. Ranging in size from about 20cm to 13m, they live in icy arctic seas, tropical lagoons, and open ocean. They take a long time to mature and breed slowly (in fish terms).
Many sharks are now globally endangered. Some species have declined by a whopping, and scary, 99%. Others are still being caught and killed indiscriminately in tuna nets and long lines, and countless more are caught for just their fins – tens of millions of sharks are killed by humans every year. There are legitimate fisheries for sharks too – some of which are caught for meat, but some are caught and processed into less-obvious products.
Which is where Selfridges Project Ocean comes in, and really
steps up: they have cleansed their beauty halls of the little-known ingredient shark squalene, a product derived
from deep-sea sharks which are especially vulnerable. This is no
mean feat by Selfridges and deserves some congratulations. They have
worked with a host of suppliers and companies to make sure that not only are
their restaurants and food hall free of suspect fish, but now their customers
don’t have to worry about having mushed-up shark in their cosmetics either.
The twin track of being a responsible retailer and championing more protection at sea is a great one. So I for one am a huge fan of the Shark Parks idea. And an even bigger fan of not smearing sharks on my face.