By Olle Åkesson
Sharks have always evoked powerful emotions among humans. It seems to be a love or hate relationship, fuelled by fascination and awe or fear and mistrust respectively. Those who love them speak of amazing animals with senses that humans couldn’t even begin to understand: incredible smell and the ability to ‘feel’ electric impulses from other animals. Those who hate them relate stories of vicious attacks (very, very rare by the way) and cold unfeeling eyes.
Jaws, a cinematographically brilliant film has done as much damage to the relationship between sharks and humans as I think is possible. So much so that the author, Peter Benchley, now wishes he never wrote it. But importantly I think it highlighted a fear of the unknown. Not being able to see what is around and under you when you are in the water adds to the apprehension and dread.
To me, it adds to the excitement, adds a sense of adventure and exploration to going out to sea. Whether you are above the surface in a boat or in the water you never quite know exactly what you’ll find in the next nautical mile, the next sonar track or the next fin stroke.
Here is Sussex we have several species of shark: catsharks, starry smooth hound and tope sharks to name but a few. Even if you don't want to get wet you can still help sharks by looking for mermaid’s purses, their egg cases, on the beach and reporting these to the Shark Trust.
A few years ago I was incredibly fortunate to go diving with the world’s second biggest fish, a basking shark. It is difficult to describe the feeling of a ten-metre long shark coming at you with a one-metre wide open mouth and paying you absolutely no attention whatsoever. Someday I hope to see the biggest fish: whale shark. Both species are filter feeders and completely harmless to humans, but I’d love to encounter a great white shark as well. My heart would be racing and I would be very, very cautious; they are dangerous predators, but people go on safari to see tigers and lions so why not a great white shark?