Whoever considered that soup could be a deadly concoction to both human beings of land and majestic creatures of the ocean? Or that liver oils and aphrodisiacs could heighten your mood but deflate a 4,000 pound predator of the deep?
With thoughts of shark week, holistic health may very well not be the first thing to swim into your mind (or even the last thing for that matter), but our everyday lifestyle choices affect the health of sharks just as much as they affect ours. These impressive creatures have been swimming the oceans for over 400 million years (100 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared on land) and have been contributing to the delicate interplay of our oceanic ecosystems ever since.
They are integral to our oceans and though recent news has surfaced with shark attacks on the rise, the shark population is on the decline, with Green Peace reporting that some species have declined over 95% in the last decade. The empowering news is that we DO have the power to protect these predators and much of it takes place on our plates!
Random FACTS of kindness:
Most shark species are docile and couldn’t give a shark’s fin about humans. What they DO care about is feeding their enormous bodies with seals which we so conveniently resemble as we’re floating in the water. Most shark attacks are not fatal because, just as you would a mushy apple, a shark takes one bite, realises we’re not what it thought we were and spits us out. The unfortunate thing is that on the jaws of a standard shark, this “test bite” is pretty substantial. But all things considered, sharks are really wonderful creatures and an important part of the sea. Turns out we don’t need to be as afraid of sharks as we should be afraid for them.
In honour of shark week, let me take you on a dive into the 6 ways that we can make waves in our health and the health of our sharks!
1) From bait to plate: Do not eat shark. EVER.
- Have you ever tried shark? If not, you are missing out on one of the greatest sources of mercury you could eat from the sea! Sound appetizing? I have never been one to turn down a strange food experience but this would be one of them. With extremely high levels of mercury contamination and inhumane killing practises, we’re swimming in over our heads with each bite.
- Mercury is a neurotoxin to both humans and animals and found in extremely high amounts in sharks. Pollution has dramatically increased the amount of mercury found in our water with The Whole Life Nutrition book stating that the top 100 meters of the ocean now has twice as much mercury as it did in the previous century. The larger and fattier the animal, the more this accumulates in the tissues with up to 9 million times the amount that’s found in the water, according to Mercola.
- Predatorial fish (such as sharks) now contain 12 times the mercury they did during pre-industrial times. Why such large amounts? Sharks, being top-of-the-food-chain creatures, are eating other fish that are already contaminated, which causes the mercury to accumulate within their bodies. When we eat them, that mercury will accumulate in us.
Beware that shark can be disguised under other names such as flake, rock salmon, dog-fish, rigg or rock eel.
- In Asia, shark fin soup is a delicacy but an indelicacy to sharks, who are cruelly killed for their fins (utilizing only 1-5% of the shark’s body weight) with the rest of their bodies being discarded back into the ocean (often with the shark still alive and left to bleed to death). The fresh fins can fish prices of up to $400 / kilogram according to wildaid.org.
RFOK (random facts of kindness):
Even with those tell-tale razor sharp teeth, sharks don’t actually chew their food but rather swallow them. As for us, we need to chew our food around 30-40 times for optimal digestion!
2. Some-things a little fishy: Eat sustainably caught fish
- So you’re not eating shark, but what about your everyday seafood choices such as fish? Turns out over half the amount of sharks caught each year are done through by-catch while attempting to catch other fish such as squid, tuna, and other commercial species.
- This way of farming or fishing doesn’t jeopardize the health of our oceans and is an easy and effective way to make a change each and every time you purchase seafood. To find sustainably caught sea food, follow this link which will give you access to consumer guides, downloadable apps and even lets you compare you favourite sushi! http://www.seafoodwatch.org/
RFOK: We aren’t the only ones who like variety in our seafood! In captivity sharks will refuse to eat if they have eaten the same thing too many times.
3. Hooked on health: Choose shark-healthy health products
- There are unfortunately a few health care products utilizing components of shark. Some of these include aphrodisiacs, shark liver oil, arthritis and cancer prevention products that use shark cartilage. The effectiveness of these supplements is backed up by very little, if any, scientific facts. Stay away from the use of any of these products, especially with the potential risks of contamination that appears in sharks.
RFOK: Speaking of aphrodisiacs, female sharks have thicker skin, as males have to bite the females while mating. Due to the fact that they heal rapidly, bite marks on a female shark is a telltale sign that you’ve found their mating grounds.
4. Give them a High Fin!
- Flying can impact our deep-sea diving friends! This is one tip I “flew” with after reading it on the Discovery shark week website. Many shark fins are transported via airplane and choosing airlines that refuse these practises is a simple way to hop on board and take a stand as you take your seat.
Sharks move like airplanes by creating forward movements with their tails (like propellers) so that water moves over their fins like wings.
5. Adopt a shark!
- Now, I am certainly not encouraging you to strap on your scuba gear and dive into a swarm of hungry sharks with your adoption agency papers looking for the right one to bring home to your living room aquarium. On the other hand, or fin, there are many organizations such as WWF, that allow you to “adopt” an animal, thereby donating to the protection of that species. This makes a great gift too! 😀
There’s a species called the cookie-cutter shark (presumably gluten and refined-sugar free!) that takes cookie-cutter shaped bites of its food.
6. Share Socially!
- Share this and other articles! Tweet it, Facebook it, email it. Social media has become one of the biggest ways to make a splash in our world. It allows us to instantly share information and bring awareness to important issues that we care about. Whether it be this article, a Greenpeace article, the shark week website, or any other modality, create waves by creating awareness.
As we sit down with our lemon waters and humus to take a bite of shark week, consider that with our everyday choices, we have the power to influence these magnificent creatures of the deep! And it is easy, so easy, to make waves in their health, right now! It starts with knowledge and changes with action. And your first line of action? Share this article and get the message out there!
For loads more information check out: http://wildaid.org/sites/default/files/resources/EndOfTheLine2007US.pdf
Wishing you all a Holistic Chomp of Shark Week!