A Letter On Ocean Health From My Generation To My Parents’

ZMKF aka DORKY SHARK

I can’t decide how to start this…

“How dare you leave this to us?” Harsh. Bitter. Scared. Betrayed.

Or,

“Don’t worry, we’ll take it from here.” Gentle. Calm. Optimistic. No blame.

Both seem like good options.

I guess it depends on the person, really, but in general…in general, my generation hasn’t done enough to help heal the ocean either. I hear the millenials are doing well with that. I’m kidding, of course. Age doesn’t really matter.

But time does.

My friends and I are now working on a site, this site, to save 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. (The ocean.)

This site is a general site that contains links to more specific ocean-saving sites, such as marine animal conservancies, or particular scientific/technological endeavors. The fact that no site has acted as a bridge between the public and the progress before now is disheartening, but it makes us feel special. We are the first. Boy, are we – eventually – going to be popular.

Age doesn’t matter. You could be 23, 34, 45, 64 but still rockin it, 73 but still absolutely rockin it…age doesn’t matter. When I say that this is from my generation to yours, I mean:

You were my age once. You guys, and the few generations before you guys, you and your friends and your parents all started learning about these problems as they begun. Please tell me that learning any type of marine science is simply a new thing that only happens in awesome schools (thanks, Mary!), and that you simply never learned about how bad it was going to get. Because if you did learn, if you knew…tell me what happened.

If you’re reading this and you are a teacher, or an actually sustainable fisherperson, or someone who works to replenish reefs, or anybody who’s trying, then this is not a cry for you to never have any free time. I just want you to see I care too. 

If you learned it then dropped it and stayed inland or just never really looked at the beach right next door, this is for you.        

If you have ever asked yourself, “Why the ocean?”

Don’t.

Don’t even ask.

But I’ll tell you anyways.

There’s gotta be something good hidden in 71 percent of your planet’s surface, right?

“Prochlorococcus and other ocean phytoplankton are responsible for 70 percent of Earth's oxygen production. However, some scientists believe that phytoplankton levels have declined by 40 percent since 1950 due to the warming of the ocean. Ocean temperature impacts the number of phytoplankton in the ocean.” – Save The Plankton, Breathe Freely – National Geographic Society

And ya know what affects ocean temperature? Planet temperature! Global warming! Fun, right?

Rainforests are meaningful, and they need to be saved. Just like all forests. But for their wildlife, not for their oxygen production.

Okay, next fun fact about the ocean!

The oceans hold 97 percent of the Earth’s water. We like water, remember? The Native Americans are right – water is life. The ocean, in general, gives us the life we have. The ocean literally takes the heat from global warming for us.

“This excess energy has largely been sucked up by the oceans, which have a huge capacity to store heat. As the oceans store more heat, however, they expand. Scientists have shown that over the past decade, this thermal expansion has caused about one-third of the rise in sea levels.” – Oceans Are Absorbing Almost All of the Globe’s Excess Heat, The New York Times

That, my friends, is something we should be terrified of and grateful for. If it weren’t the ocean, we’d be feeling global warming how it really is.

Third and final fun fact!

The coral reefs are dying…and you may not care now, but oh boy, you will soon. And I will be laughing maniacally and very bitterly at you while looking you straight in the eyes. Coral reefs hold up biodiversity. Name your favorite seafood. I guarantee you that it is tied, by food chain or by geography, to the reefs. Reefs host breeding, feeding, and fighting. The jobs that coral reefs inspire humans to take bring us billions of dollars in income. And if you support politicians who market themselves on bringing people jobs, support the ocean! Millions of jobs are performed in around 100 different countries, around and at the reefs.   

The ocean is important.

The ocean cannot wait.

The ocean is worth your time and effort.

Even if the time is 30 seconds and the effort is sending this article in an email.

The ocean is not yours to own but if it helps, treat it as such.

There are still things you can do.

But if you ever doubt yourself…or simply get tired of fighting to solve problems that seem to keep coming back…or maybe you’re just worried about what’s coming after your time of fighting is over…

I’m here. My friends and I, we won’t excuse your struggles with this but we will cut you some slack.

And we’ll take charge.

Now is the time.

I am here for you, all of you.

I am here for the ocean, the planet, the flora and fauna.

Lastly, I’m here for myself.

I can’t let this go.

I wonder how you did.

Let me point something out to you. You are a good person. Even though you let it go. But while you sit here having a moral or philosophical argument about whether you should take action now, or whether you will make a difference, or whether you ruined your chance…“Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, and other marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris.” http://www.seeturtles.org/ocean-plastic/ As you would see if you’d read my shark op-ed piece before this one, about 11, 417 sharks die every hour. Oil spills are thankfully not as common as the pessimist would expect, but whenever they do happen, the part of the ecosystem in which the oil spreads is contaminated. The animals need to be cleansed in a way that they can’t do themselves to survive, not even birds or otters. A beautiful, huge, worthy species that you didn’t even know existed is already extinct and has been for 249 years – Steller’s Sea Cow. 26 to 30 feet long, they were wiped less than 30 years after they were “discovered” by “the Westerners.” (Russians, Northern American immigrants who don’t like to think of themselves as immigrants, etc.) “The smallest and the rarest marine dolphin in the world - the Maui dolphin - is on the verge of disappearing forever. There are no more than 47 of these mammals left in the wild, existing in just a sliver of ocean on the west coast of New Zealand's North Island.” https://www.thedodo.com/fewer-than-50-of-these-dolphins-remain-on-the-planet-1168357358.html As you can see, there is much to be done. But we’ll help. And you are a good person. Don’t doubt that.

You might not make a difference. You might. You might find that there’s so much to work on that you don’t know where or how to start. And you might feel like you can’t forgive yourself for ignoring this. But crying about the ocean alone in your room for longer than an hour isn’t going to help the ocean. You may feel depressed about what we tell you. There’s one way to feel better, and that’s to ignore it. You’ve already tried that.

Now try action. Just try. See where it takes you.

I will guide you.

We will guide you.     

Sharks Are Harmless, Lovable Dorks Who Don’t Deserve Us

ZMKF aka DORKY SHARK

Yes, I am talking about the group of apex predators.

Sharks belong to Selachimorpha, a lower classification within Elasmobranchii. (The exact taxonomy of sharks is down at the bottom.) They share Elasmobranchii with skates, rays, and sawfish, and they share Chondrichthyes with Holocephali, a group of “ghost sharks” (chimaeras) sometimes separated into their own class.

The page on Sharks from the Smithsonian Ocean Portal describes their variety beyond just the Great White: “They range in size from the length of a human hand to more than 39 feet (12 meters) long; half of all shark species are less than one meter (or about 3 feet) long. They come in a variety of colors (including bubble gum pink)…” In case you’re wondering about the bubblegum pink one…so did I. I looked it up for you:

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  And you’re right…it is weird. It’s a goblin shark. I learned about those in Marine Zoology but I didn’t know they could be  that color : 

And you’re right…it is weird. It’s a goblin shark. I learned about those in Marine Zoology but I didn’t know they could be that color

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   That  is ugly. Not scary.  Ugly . Very, very,  very  ugly. And sure, maybe it is a teeny bit frightening, but that’s just because of its horrendous face. 

That is ugly. Not scary. Ugly. Very, very, very ugly. And sure, maybe it is a teeny bit frightening, but that’s just because of its horrendous face. 

Pay no mind to the face.  Instead, I’ll show you the world’s cutest shark to cleanse your eyes and then we can move on. 

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  Take a good, long look at that Bristly Catshark. It’s  adorable . 

Take a good, long look at that Bristly Catshark. It’s adorable

Sharks are not innately scary, not even Great Whites. “But what about all the shark attacks I hear about?” you say. Shark attacks do happen, and there are four main types of attack. I’m going to explain and justify each one so you have a bit of information to help you calm the f*ck down about sharks.

Type 1: Sudden/Alternate Attacks. A shark will be swimming alongside you or a fur seal, appearing to be utterly lackadaisical, then suddenly – BAM! – it changes direction, speeds towards you, and “gently” tastes you at high speed. Alternate (or Redoublement) attacks are pretty similar, expect the shark does it again at some point – if you stuck around, that is. The shark is not trying to mess with your head. It’s not evil, either. These shark attack types reflect hunting tactics. And sharks don’t really hunt humans. Human swimming is different from marine animal swimming. Marine animals belong there. Packs of wolves will commonly go for the weakest, youngest, or sickest of the herd that they are chasing. This makes sense. Sharks are the same, and our “swimming” feels like a confused, disoriented fur seal. Our “fun splashing” is their dinner bell.

Type 2: Ambush Attack. This really is the nightmare scenario (and it happens rarely)! A shark will wait below you, near the reef or just far below enough to hide, and then *cue Jaws theme* up it comes, too fast for you to react until…chomp. Other reasons for shark attacks other than you swimming (flailing, really, obviously unaware of your lack of grace while in the water) like dinner include looking like dinner. Like surfing? Oh, good. Nice hobby. Look: 

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  You look  just like  two of sharks’ favorite foods. 

You look just like two of sharks’ favorite foods. 

Do not blame the shark. Do not blame the shark. Get a safe hobby, like painting or stamp collecting. Just kidding…you can totally surf. But just don’t go out there thinking you’re invincible and then getting mad when a buddy with big teeth gets hungry.  

Type 3: Adventitious attack. Let’s say there’s blood in the water. Let’s hope it’s not your blood, but if it is, guess what? You’re next! Question for you, you’re hanging out in your own house and free food from a source you know is trustworthy shows up…and you’d be able to tell if it wasn’t safe to eat…it is around lunch time…do you take advantage of it? If your answer is no…are you an idiot? Sharks are not philosophers. They don’t doubt their food. They eat it. And sharks, my friend, can detect blood in water at one part per million. That’s hardly the entire ocean, but it should convince you finish bleeding before entering the water. 

Type 4: Provoked attack. Otherwise known as, the You Really Are An Idiot Attack. Imagine poking a bear with a sharp stick, or attempting to make off with one of its cubs. Will the bear take kindly to you doing that? Not at all. You will get a similarly negative reception if you are a dick to a shark. I’m not going to say anything else about this because if you wanna go test it out, by all means, go ahead. It’s your funeral. 

All in all, I think we can agree that shark attacks are not the shark’s fault. In any way. You want proof? Shark attacks are thankfully rare. From the Wildlife Museum: “The odds of getting attacked and killed by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. In a lifetime, you are more likely to die from fireworks (1 in 340,733), light- ning (1 in 79,746), drowning (1 in 1,134), a car accident (1 in 84), stroke (1 in 24), or heart disease (1 in 5).” 

There is no reason to be frightened of sharks. 

Sharks are dorks. 

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  Dork. Big-mouth dork. (Whale shark. They eat plankton and the like…tiny, non-human things.) 

Dork. Big-mouth dork. (Whale shark. They eat plankton and the like…tiny, non-human things.) 

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    Thresher shark. Look at that face. That’s my expression when I hear someone say they voted for Trump. That shark is a harmless, lovable  dork . 

Thresher shark. Look at that face. That’s my expression when I hear someone say they voted for Trump. That shark is a harmless, lovable dork

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  Hammerhead Shark. Dork. Look at all its little friends swimming around its wide head. Such a wide-headed dork. 

Hammerhead Shark. Dork. Look at all its little friends swimming around its wide head. Such a wide-headed dork. 

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    As with the goblin shark, this one is not scary. This dork – sorry,  shark  is pathetically, hilariously  ugly . By the way, those holes aren’t eyes. They are its  nostrils .   

As with the goblin shark, this one is not scary. This dork – sorry, shark is pathetically, hilariously ugly. By the way, those holes aren’t eyes. They are its nostrils.   

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  Dork. Look at those big finnies on that big awkward smiling fishy.  Adorable .       

Dork. Look at those big finnies on that big awkward smiling fishy. Adorable.       

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  And this is Bruce. You know Bruce. From Finding Nemo. He never knew his father. Perfectly friendly. 

And this is Bruce. You know Bruce. From Finding Nemo. He never knew his father. Perfectly friendly. 

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  And this is a random stock photo of a piece of dork –  shark  – that I placed here to make you feel those annoying things called emotions. Wait, but you don’t even know why you should feel something while looking at this photo! Unless you’re a kind soul who understands that it’s unpleasant enough to have your limbs cut off.

And this is a random stock photo of a piece of dork – shark – that I placed here to make you feel those annoying things called emotions. Wait, but you don’t even know why you should feel something while looking at this photo! Unless you’re a kind soul who understands that it’s unpleasant enough to have your limbs cut off.

I know it’s a long way from fear to reluctant nonchalance to understanding to pity. Hopefully I can guide you on the first few steps.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed for shark fin soup. Served in Vietman and other Asian countries, shark fin soup is essentially chicken soup with a…special ingredient. Shark fin. Duh. Guess what? Shark fin tastes like absolutely nothing, and it has no value, nutritional or otherwise. In the documentary Sharkwater, the late Rob Stewart looked into the supposed “medicinal value” of shark fins – that includes claims that they help cure cancer – and found none of it was based in fact. Also, according to Newsweek, Donald Trump has eaten shark fin soup and liked it. So…you should not support the making of the soup.  

100 million sharks are killed for no reason.  And yes, de-finning sharks kills them. They’re unable to swim and drown shortly after the removal of their fins.

Sure, you may not actively support de-finning, but are you doing anything to help stop it? Did you even know about it?

To put 100 million dead sharks in perspective, here’s a graphic from the Huffington Post: 

 

Yep. That's how many. 

Yep. That's how many. 

Sharks are harmless. Sharks like to be pet. 

You have to slow your heart rate to get near enough to do it, otherwise you scare them into staying away (they can sense heartbeat rates!), which is why I think they’d make good therapy animals.

Sharks do not deserve us and our caustic ways. They deserve to be left alone.

This is in no way comprehensive. I did not describe or even list all the threats sharks face. I will get more specific in later articles, but for now, my point was to simply start to address a big issue, and let you think about it, but most importantly, let you know sharks are ridiculous dorks who don’t deserve to be so badly hurt. I want to take it nice and slow. I don’t want to overwhelm you with information, or do the same to myself. If you want more information or more proof of the devastation, for now, go the sites below.

 

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  And to make you happy after you’ve stuck with me this long and read about a big problem, here is a shark with human teeth. (Photoshop is a wonderful thing.) 

And to make you happy after you’ve stuck with me this long and read about a big problem, here is a shark with human teeth. (Photoshop is a wonderful thing.)