There may be no word in the English language that is more likely to invoke wonder or fear, or a combination of the two, than "shark". Much of the reaction to sharks, verging at times on hysteria, has been fuelled by the film "Jaws", and subsequent spinoffs, and sensationalized and lurid accounts of monsters that not only are the stuff of nightmares, but flirt with truth and skirt the very edges of reality.
This is the book to set you straight!
The text points out: "Many tens of millions of people use the sea for work or recreation, but there are only about 100 shark bite incidents reported globally each year................Although the risk of serious injury from sharks is incredibly small, and the fear produced may seem to be completely out of proportion to this risk.......not least because the likelihood of them occurring at all is so slim."
Logic be damned, however!
You are considerably more susceptible to injury or death driving to the beach, than you are from sharks when you arrive there and go for a swim; but no one thinks twice about getting into a car.
I have the impression, and the hope, that this book will help to alleviate the fear of sharks and put the emphasis on wonder.
The first ninety-three pages are dedicated to an examination of how sharks came about in the evolution of fishes, followed by an examination of their biology. Twenty pages are devoted to "Sharks and People" and a key to the orders and families of living sharks.
There follows a detailed examination of all the known species of sharks found throughout the world.
These accounts are replete with colour photographs and illustrations, line drawings, charts, diagrams, and maps. The status (IUCN Red List) is provided for each species and it is disheartening to see the number of species that are are threatened, or in some cases in serious danger of imminent extinction. The savage, unsustainable practice of capturing sharks only for their fins, must be stopped. This very activity is a clear indication that as humans we have not advanced as far as we might give ourselves credit for. Morality apart, it is sheer madness to exploit a resource until it no longer exists.
A first rate glossary follows the species accounts, with four other appendices titled "Oceans and Seas", "Field Observations", "Fin Identification", and "Tooth Identification".
An intensive bibliography provides links to further reading.
I remember vividly seeing my first sharks, basking in warm tropical waters. They were probably Tiger Sharks, although at the time I did not have the skill to identify them. They seemed to be the very antithesis of dangerous, mindless killers; they appeared quite gentle in fact. We had no desire to interfere with them in any way, neither for profit nor out of fear, not as food nor to hang a shark tooth on a thong around our neck.
It is my fervent hope that we will cease our reckless, destructive assaults on these vital inhabitants of intact and healthy oceans. In the process maybe we can stop loading the seas with plastics and other pollutants too.
We owe it to ourselves to take action, but more especially, it is a legacy of clean oceans with robust populations of all its creatures that we should wish to bequeath to those who come after us.
This book will help you to support shark conservation and steer a clear path away from the unsustainable, ecosystem-damaging and morally bankrupt practices that continue right up to this day.
Make sure you let your elected officials know how you feel.
Sharks of the World - Princeton University Press
Authors: David A. Ebert, Marc Dando and Sarah Fowler
US$49.95 - £40.00 - ISBN 9780691205991
Published - USA 20 July 2021
UK 22 June 2021
608 pages - 2,000+ coloured illustrations, photographs, maps and charts
8.5 x 9 in. (21.25 x 22.5 cm)