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Originally broadcast on July 12, 2006.
(check local listings for repeat airings)
"Now, more than ever, two myths must be laid to rest. One, sharks are not mindless predators nor sinister man-eaters, and two, the oceans are not full of sharks."
- Jean-Michel Cousteau
For thousands of years, sharks have haunted the human imagination. These perfect predators, 400 million years in the making, are unique hunters with awesome power. But their reputation as cruel, senseless killers of human nightmares is a far cry from reality. These powerful creatures play a vital role in the intricate balance that makes up the oceans' ecosystem. Today, a new predator, the human, puts these amazing creatures at risk, giving sharks far more reason to fear us than we have to fear them.
Brutal modern fishing practices, such as long-lining, and new demand for shark fins have decimated shark populations around the globe. Every year, 100 million sharks are killed by people. (An estimated 50 percent of those deaths are accidental, sharks getting caught up in nets that are set to catch other kinds of fish.) In fact, the populations of great white and hammerhead sharks have plummeted by 75 percent over the last 25 years. But this slaughter has not drawn much public sympathy because many people view sharks as a menace. Yet the truth is that sharks are a vital link in the food chain. When shark populations decline sharply, the results can be dramatic, upsetting the balance of the oceans and producing unintended consequences with effects that can reach around the globe.
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