In the marine world, sharks have often been misunderstood and feared by many. However, Agustí Torres, chairman of the Associació Shark Med, reminds us of an essential truth: “A sea without sharks is more dangerous than one with them.” This statement was made in the preamble to the conference “The Sharks of the Balearics and the Challenges for Their Conservation”, which took place at the visitors’ centre of the Cabrera National Park in Colònia de Sant Jordi, with the collaboration of Borja Torres, a technician from the aforementioned park.
Contrary to popular belief driven by social media, there are not more sharks now than in the past. The misperception arises because, in the digital age, images of sharks found dead on beaches go viral, giving the impression of an increase in their numbers. In actuality, the situation is alarming. Shark Med, which has been working on a scientific project to record sharks in the open sea, has observed a decline in sightings. One probable reason is the warming of the waters, which affects the distribution of these species sensitive to temperatures.
Sharks, especially the blue shark commonly seen in the Balearics, prefer cooler waters, around 20 or 21 degrees. However, this year, as early as May, temperatures surpassed this optimal range. This trend is further evidenced by more sightings in areas of the Western Mediterranean, such as Cap de Creus or the southern French coast, where waters are cooler and nutrient-rich.
But why is the presence of sharks in our seas so crucial? Torres emphasises that sharks play a fundamental role in balancing marine ecosystems. Their reintroduction can bring about beneficial changes, even in marine flora. An example is a programme in Australia that, by restoring the shark population, managed to improve the status of seaweed meadows.
From Mallorca Preservation, we appeal to awareness and education about the importance of conserving and protecting sharks. Their presence is not only vital for maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem, but it is also an indicator of the health of our seas. Protecting sharks is to protect our natural heritage. For this reason, in June 2021, we joined other organisations dedicated to marine conservation in supporting the recovery of species like the angel shark, all within the context of the Stellaris Project.