Today, July 14, is Shark Awareness Day. And no, you don’t celebrate it by getting down to the beach and shouting out warnings to terrified swimmers and surfers. Today is about debunking the myths that surround sharks and dispelling the fear that gets evoked every time you hear the theme music of Jaws. This is exactly what 10-year-old Elijah Franklin is doing with the help of his new Mini 2 drone.
Elijah lives in Del Mar, a beach city in San Diego County, California. The place is a hotspot for great white shark sightings. Juvenile sharks especially like to hang out in the Del Mar beach area. The water is warmer and there are plenty of stingrays, one of their staple foods, to gorge on.
And compared to the number of sharks in these waters – as many as 30 – incidents of biting are amazingly low. Only 17 shark attack cases have been documented in San Diego County since 1926, and only two have resulted in fatalities. The overall US average for annual shark attacks is also just 19, with one fatality every couple of years. By comparison, lightning strikes kill 37 people every year.
A bird’s-eye view of the great white sharks
Elijah, meanwhile, had never encountered a great white shark before receiving the DJI Mini 2 as a birthday gift earlier this year. Now, he says he can get a bird’s-eye view of the great white sharks crashing through the waves along the shores.
So much so, the budding marine biologist has launched a YouTube channel, Great White Drone, to bring about awareness that sharks are not aggressive creatures toward humans. He says:
By using drones, we can now tell how close juvenile great white sharks come to the California coastline. So, my main goal with this channel is to help people understand that even when sharks come in very close vicinity of surfers, they almost never attack.
We checked out the channel and saw that it was launched only this month (so, do subscribe).
It has some great footage of sharks, stingrays, dolphins, and even whales that Elijah has captured over the last few weeks. But that’s not even the best part. We are completely blown over by the voiceover that he has given to some of his longer videos. Like this one here:
One thing that happens over the summer is that sharks come into very shallow waters close to the shore. The largest shark I have captured so far measures around 11 to 12 feet. And usually, I’m just flying my drone over the sharks. But on other days, I find things that I’m not expecting to see. Like a shark gobbling up a fish. Or a shark coming out of the water completely and splashing down hard on its back after breaching.
Shark Awareness Day: What researchers say
While people have always viewed sharks as blood-hungry predators, it’s humans who are more likely to kill sharks. Sharks and rays are affected by ship strikes, oil and gas drilling, and, increasingly, the climate change emergency. However, overfishing remains the primary cause of their decline.
It has been previously estimated that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year. And according to a just-released WWF research, more than 200 countries and territories are importing and exporting shark and ray meat for a global trade that was valued at $2.6 billion between 2012 and 2019. While Spain is the world’s top exporter, Italy is the top importer. Overall, the European Union accounting for more than 20% of the global shark meat trade.
As Simone Niedermueller of WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative explains:
We are eating more shark and ray meat than we realize, and this is happening everywhere, including in Europe, with serious consequences for some species already at risk of extinction. Sharks and rays are migrating more when they are dead than alive, as their meat crosses over 200 borders, with some Mediterranean and European countries playing key roles as importers and exporters, as well as consumers. It’s a global trade that requires management and transparency to tackle illegality and the rapid depletion of sharks and rays in our ocean.
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