Sharks are among the most successful predators ever, having emerged about 350 million years ago and having remained particularly unchanged for the past 70 million. Only now is man threatening them.
“Everything about him was beautiful, except the jaws.” It is with this phrase that the American writer Ernest Hemingway begins to describe a magnificent shark, in his famous novel “The Old Man and the Sea”.
Sharks are a fascinating group of fish that have always provoked feelings of fear in humans, to some extent exaggerated, but which can be compared to the feelings of fear and respect that all great predators arouse. However, although there are many marine predators, it is to the shark that stereotyped identification of “killer of the seas” applies.
Numerous shark myths have been built up over time. In certain regions, where this animal has always been present, true religions have been created by divinizing it, as happened in the Solomon Islands, where it is known as “takw manacca”. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, the inhabitants of these islands made human sacrifices to the god shark. But although in Western culture myths have very different expressions, we often see mixed manifestations of fear and admiration materialized, for example, in the blockbuster films where the shark is the main villain, like the sequel “Jaws” (The Shark), by Steven Spielberg or, more recently, Renny Harlym’s film, “Deep Blue Sea”.
In reality, sharks have much more reason to fear humans than the other way around, because in this story the roles are reversed and it is the shark that needs protection. More than 50 million sharks are killed each year for commercial purposes. In addition to the fact that their meat is highly prized, many of the catches are only intended for fins, used in the preparation of a famous Asian soup. The liver of these animals, being very rich in oils, is still used as a lubricant, the skin as a raw material in the production of sandpaper and the cartilage is extracted for “dubious” therapeutic uses.