We met Christopher Chin, Founder and Executive Director of COARE at the SeaWeb Summit in Malta, where COARE was being honored as a Finalist in the Seafood Champion Awards Advocacy Category. COARE developed the Shark Safe® certification for businesses that distinguish themselves through their dedication to shark conservation. Christopher is an internationally recognized expert in ocean policy and conservation issues, and has provided valuable and persuasive testimony for the consideration of various issues to governing and legislative bodies in the U.S. and in Canada, and is considered North America’s foremost expert in shark fin policy.
Besides all that, Topher is an accomplished underwater cinematographer whose footage has been featured on the Discovery Channel and Shark Week. Ever wonder who the crazy people are who get in the water and film sharks? Now you know.
By Christopher Chin
With Shark Week under way, these amazing and awe-inspiring creatures are the topic of discussion more often than any other time of year. Reactions range from fascination to absolute dread, and I could go on and on about how sharks are misunderstood and that they’re portrayed too negatively. However, what’s important to keep in mind is that sharks are vitally important to the health of the oceans, and that no matter what your reaction is, and no matter how far you might live from the ocean, sharks matter to you!
Just as the lion is considered “the king of the jungle”, sharks help control the health of the ocean from the top of the food web. Without sharks to help maintain the delicate balance, the health and population of some of our favorite fish stocks could be threatened. Naturally, we should all be concerned that tens of millions of sharks are killed every year, many for their fins alone.
Similarly, when fish are caught in an unsustainable manner, or their populations are thinned too quickly, that, too, can cause a great imbalance in the food web, ultimately impacting our favorite sharks. In a nutshell, sharks matter to the fish, and the fish matter to the sharks . . . and they ALL matter to us.
When making seafood choices, always seek sustainable options. Not sure where that fish came from? Ask. If the server or merchant doesn’t know, choose something else. Were you brave enough to eat the “mystery meat” back when you were in elementary school? No, I didn’t think so. So, why should you do that now with fish?
As far as sharks are concerned, let’s give them a break. Avoid eating shark or purchasing shark products. Better yet, you can also avoid choosing seafood that may have been caught in a manner that accidentally kills sharks (“bycatch”).
For ten years, COARE has been working to increase public awareness of the need for ocean conservation, and is one of the leading organizations for shark conservation policy. If you’d like to learn more about ocean conservation, or sustainable seafood efforts and shark conservation in particular, please visit www.coare.org and www.sharksafe.org.