SHARKS! The Most Important Part Of My Reading List

Okay, I’m really not off to a good start in terms of planning to read books I already own that have been sitting around on my self for years. The next book I crossed off my 2021 reading list was also a brand new purchase. In my defense, I’ve wanted this book for quite some time and I finally bought it for myself as a birthday present. I had to start reading it the moment it arrived in the mail. The book in question is Emperors of the Deep by William McKeever and, as a book on sharks and how humans are causing their demise, it became the obvious choice for “a book about helping the environment”. Don’t think helping sharks is the same as helping the environment? Read this book to find out how wrong you are.

Not only does McKeever write about why sharks are so “jawsome”, but he also explains why these apex predators are so crucial for the environment. And all of this information is backed up by science. Between his own research and adventures, as well as conversations with experts (some of them are even Shark Week celebrities), McKeever sheds light on all things shark. Some of the chapters start out by describing all of the wonderful things about sharks and the scientific research being done to learn more about them. And then, just when you’re falling madly in love with these predators, McKeever shares all of the horrible things that humans are doing to them. Climate change, bycatch, fishing tournaments, and the shark fin trade are all factors contributing to the decline in shark populations. And, of course, there is plenty of scientific evidence to support what will happen to ocean ecosystems if sharks go extinct.

Still don’t care enough about the horrors of the shark fin trade? Then check out the chapters on slavery. That’s right. Slavery. For this book, McKeever interviewed people who had been kidnapped, or tricked into applying for jobs, and forced into slavery. These slaves work on fishing boats that engage in a lot of illegal and immoral practices – like shark finning. Not only does it benefit the sharks and the health of the ocean if we put a stop to the shark fin trade, but it can benefit the people involved if authorities tackle these kinds of issues that are linked to shark finning. I have always been against shark finning, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I learned just how horrible that industry is. I had absolutely no idea slaves were involved.

Obviously, I am incredibly biased when I say that sharks are phenomenal creatures that deserve our respect. But right now, they also deserve our protection. So many species of shark are ending up on the endangered list and this needs to stop. It is absolutely heartbreaking to think that we could drive these beautiful predators to the drink of extinction. I’m being serious when I say that I cried reading some of the chapters in this book. I highly recommend reading this if, like me, you are a lover of sharks. And I recommend it even more if you’re scared of sharks or just don’t know all that much about them. These are not man-eating monsters to be feared. They are crucial to the health of marine ecosystems and need our help.

Bonus: Sharks: Face-to-Face with the Ocean’s Endangered Predator by Michael Muller. I received this as a birthday gift and decided that it would make a good bonus read because a) it ties in really well to Emperors of the Deep, and b) there’s not a whole lot of reading to be done in this book. Essentially, it’s an art book. And as an added bonus, the publisher, Taschen, is carbon neutral and offsets their carbon footprint by planting trees. Although the last section contains facts about sharks, facts about the photographs, and essays by experts about photographer Michael Muller and the sharks he has photographed, this book is really all about the pictures. The images in this book are gorgeous and I have no doubt that I will go back and look at them often. The goal of this art book is to show sharks as the majestic, endangered, predators that we need to save and protect, rather than showing them as the man-eaters they have been unfairly portrayed as in the media. After looking through the breath-taking photos, it hurts to then read that these sharks are vulnerable and endangered because of climate change, bycatch, and shark finning. We need to protect not only our oceans, but our ocean predators.

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