A Sea Change

Sharks lead secret lives. Where they go and what they do lies largely hidden beneath the undulating liquid skin that separates their realm from ours. They typically appear suddenly and unexpectedly, only to disappear just as quickly. Sometimes they injure us; most times they do not. This unpredictability renders sharks both fearsome and fascinating.

In recent years, there has been a profound change in our attitudes toward sharks. Not that long ago, most people avoided sharks whenever possible, regarding them as destructive vermin and vicious killers. Now, many regard sharks as misunderstood, charismatic and intrinsically valuable wildlife. A few brave souls even seek out encounters with sharks in the wild, to better appreciate these much-maligned creatures in the context of their natural environment.

But finding sharks is not easy. One cannot simply go to the ocean and there they are. Sharks are highly mobile creatures that come and go very much on their own terms. Until very recently, whatever reasons sharks have for moving from place to place were known only to them. We are only just beginning to understand the whys and wherefores of shark distribution and movement patterns. But until we can understand why sharks live where they do, getting to know them will remain difficult.

As we push ever farther into their liquid realm, we will encounter sharks with increasing frequency. As a result, patterns will resolve and sharks will inevitably give up some of their secrets. Our learning a few of sharks’ many secrets does not render them any less fascinating, charismatic, or mysterious. It simply replaces our needless fear and mistrust of sharks with the respect and appreciation these magnificent animals must be accorded if we are to share our planet peaceably.


ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research
Text and illustrations © R. Aidan Martin
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