Sharks Are The Sign Of A Healthy Marine Ecosystem

Written by Nick Voutour, Social Media & Engagement Specialist at Pacific Wild

This isn’t going to be your typical media story about sharks. Most headlines usually have the word Attack peppered throughout. But rather than focus on the “scary” aspects of these charismatic creatures, I’m going to do my best to convert you into a fellow shark lover… Or at the very least, make you more aware of why they matter.

Sharks have been swimming through the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years – long before the first dinosaurs ever appeared on land. As a reader, you may be surprised to learn that today, 14 shark species are known to frequent Canadian Pacific waters. Sadly, many of these species are among the most threatened wildlife on the planet. All over the world, sharks are declining rapidly due largely because of a high demand for fins combined with unsustainable fishing practices which lack adequate management and garner unwanted, accidental catches. Some data suggests that upwards of 70 million sharks are taken from our seas each year!

I believe there’s still a chance for us to save sharks and peacefully coexist with them, but the first step comes in learning about why that’s important.

As a conservationist, it discourages me when I learn just how little most people know about these captivating, curious, marine top predators. Part of this lack of knowledge stems from the stereotype that we’ve created for them. The well known fear that all sharks will, with high probability, attack humans to feed. However, the science suggests otherwise. In fact, there are many species that pose virtually no risk to humans—species like the blue shark.

Nicknamed “puppies of the sea” because of their inquisitive nature, blue sharks are easily identifiable thanks to their distinct indigo backs and vibrant sapphire blue sides. They’re one of the most widely spread species of shark on the planet and are highly-migratory, making several trips across entire ocean basins throughout their lifetimes.

Here in Pacific waters, blue sharks are somewhat rare. However, in the summer of 2019, our team at Pacific Wild explored one oceanic area where they are thriving.

180 kilometres off the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the Bowie Seamount marine protected area (MPA), or SG̱aan Ḵinghlas as it is known in the Haida Indigenous language, is a massive submarine volcano where you’ll find large aggregations of blue sharks. It’s here that Pacific Wild came face to face with dozens at one time – cage-free!

Spotting so many blue sharks in an MPA like Bowie is a sign that it’s working. The added protection in this location is ensuring mass amounts of biodiversity can thrive, supporting the food web from small fish all the way up to top predators. The sharks here play an important role, helping to regulate and maintain the balance of a healthy marine ecosystem.

In a time where news of huge declines in global fish stocks is the norm, having a place with a thriving fish community like Bowie Seamount right here off our coast is a welcome site. Let’s hope we can continue to strongly protect marine ecosystems for the betterment of all species, including top predators like blue sharks.