I am deathly afraid of sharks. I saw "Jaws" when I was 6 and my relationship with the ocean was effectively over. My fear was so acute, I was convinced I'd encounter a shark at the deep end of the pool.
At 28, I attempted to conquer my fear of sharks by learning to Scuba dive. Once again, I never made it out of the pool.
Today, at 36, the only time I've managed to master my fear is when shark ends up on my dinner plate. It's only happened a few times. But since my Equator HD interview with marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle, it won't happen again.
Why? Because when you eat a shark, you're eating history: the lineage of marine life that the shark has consumed. You'll get an intimate understanding of this on Nature's "Sharkland." The stunning (and terrifying) documentary takes you to the waters of Southern Africa, where 140 different species of sharks - normally found oceans apart because of their varying thermal requirements - co-exist.
Conjure up an image of some cute baby seals. Their parents have just plucked up the courage to leave their shallow water to go deeper to feed. Now cut to cold-blooded sharks stalking the prey. The baby seals are now orphans.
Tiger sharks piercing the shells of sea turtles -
Mako sharks chasing tuna at speeds of 35 miles an hour
Zebra sharks squirming into crevices to devour mollusks, and blue sharks sniffing out a single drop of blood in 25 million drops of water. "Sharkland" goes into the belly of the beast and offers an up-close (too close) look at one of the sharkiest coasts in the world.
In the shallow and in the deep, ranging in size from 3 feet to up to 50 feet, the aggressive, cold-blooded predators make a meal of most of the ocean. It's a vicious cycle of feeding and becoming feed.
Which brings us back to our dinner plates. Every time you order shark, you are eating the snails, the fish, the plankton, and the turtles - along with everything they ingested. Unfortunately, that doesn't just include seafood.
Our oceans have become humanity's dumping ground. Plastics photodegrade into smaller bits of plastic that fish mistake for food. Oil and chemicals seep into our waters. Heavy metals and PCBs, and other pollutants settle into fish fat and concentrate as they move up the food chain. Everything we flush and throw away work their way into our oceans and streams. And ultimately, back onto our plates. A 20 year old fish eaten in 20 minutes.
Not what you thought you were having for dinner, huh?
We've depleted about 90% of our fish stocks. "Sharkland" reminds of what we stand to lose. Fears aside, it's time to have more reverence for our oceans and all the life within them.