The first Jaws movie was released in 1975. Ever since, sharks have had the reputation of being killer beasts that attack people. But in fact, sharks normally don’t show any interest in humans because human flesh is not on their menu. On the rare occasions that surfers are attacked by a shark, it is usually because from below, the peddling surfer looks a lot like a seal in trouble and seals are on the menu.

Since the beginning of time, sharks have been at the top of the food chain. They are indispensable, keeping the fish population under control, maintaining the natural balance in coral reefs and cleaning up cadavers of dead or wounded fish in the oceans.

The oldest shark fossils found is over 400 million years old. Today however, several shark species are threatened with extinction. A lot of sharks are a by-catch of the big fishing ships. Sharks are also targeted for their fins as an ingredient of shark fin soup in Asia. It is wrongfully believed to be an aphrodisiac. Their habitat is in danger due to global warming of the oceans and water pollution. It is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed every year. If sharks would disappear, the whole food chain would collapse. Certain fish that sharks prey on, would thrive so much that they would threaten the survival of other fish.

Talking about sharks immediately make people think of the fearsome Great White shark of Jaws. There are however over 400 different species of sharks. Some of them, like the Giant Shark or the Whale Shark feed on plankton and pose absolutely no danger to men. Their length can vary from 46 ft (15 m) for a Whale Shark to only 24 in (50 cm) for a Shy Shark. Several sharks have distinctive characteristics, like the special head of the Hammerhead Shark, or the big tale of the Thresher Shark.

Sharks should be treated with respect. Every underwater encounter during diving is always a pleasure. Sharks are actually very beautiful creatures and mostly very shy. They normally don’t approach divers but rather hide. They hunt during the night and mostly rest during the day.

All pictures in this article are of my own personal encounters with sharks. #News