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Shark Myths vs. Facts

A filter-feeding whale shark in Belize. [Copyright Tony Rath]Confused about sharks? We're here to dispel some of the biggest myths about sharks:

1. Myth: Sharks are hungry man eaters looking for any chance to attack.

Fact: Sharks are not hunting humans. Most “attacks” on humans are mistakes due to poor water visibility or are inquisitive bites. This is why there are so many more bites than fatalities.

2. Myth: Sharks are all the same.

Fact: Shark species are incredibly diverse with very different sizes, shapes, habitats, diets and behaviors. There are approximately 500 shark species, but only three (white, tiger and bull) are responsible for the majority of all bites.

 3. Myth: All sharks are voracious predators.

Fact: Basking sharks and whale sharks, the two largest species of sharks, are filter feeders that feed on fish eggs and other tiny organisms.

4. Myth: The only good shark is a dead shark.

Fact: Sharks play a vital role in keeping marine ecosystems balanced and healthy. Additionally, sharks help coastal economies through ecotourism. Many people are willing to pay large sums of money for the opportunity to dive with sharks.

5. Myth: If a shark attack has not occurred, it means they do not live in that area.

Fact: Sharks inhabit all of the world’s oceans – from inshore, coastal waters to the open, deep-blue sea – and some can even be found in freshwater rivers and lakes.

6. Myth: Sharks have walnut-sized brains.

Fact: Sharks can exhibit complex social behavior and some species can communicate with body language, live in groups and even hunt in packs. Sharks and rays have some of the largest brains among all fish, with brain-to-body ratios similar to birds and mammals.

7. Myth: All sharks must swim constantly.

Fact: While most sharks do need to swim continuously in order to pass water over their gills and breathe, some sharks are able to actively pump water over their gills while resting on the sea floor.

8. Myth: Shark fins grow back if they are cut off.

Fact: A finned shark thrown overboard will drown, bleed to death or be eaten by other sharks.

9. Myth: Shark fins are flavorsome, nutritious and offer medicinal properties.

Fact: Shark fins offer no flavor or nutritional value. In fact, as top predators, sharks accumulate contaminants from their prey, such as mercury, which has serious health effects even at low doses.

10. Myth: Sharks have no predators.

Fact: The greatest threat to sharks is HUMANS. Each year, tens of millions of sharks are killed for their fins. We are disrupting the ocean ecosystem by killing too many sharks.