Conservation Photography, Media Photography, Photo Blog, Sharks

Portraying the not-so-sexy-sharks…

Ask people what they know about sharks, and they will give you the ‘Discovery’ terminology: killers, awesome, beasts, dangerous, sharkfin soup and the lot.

Ask people which shark species there are, and nine out of ten people will mention great white sharks, whale sharks, tiger sharks – maybe reef sharks. For most non-diving people, the other 500+ shark species are virtually unknown.

And so is their fate: according to IUCN analysts, among the approximately 500 species of sharks, around 100 species are endangered of vulnerable. About half of the species are are Data Deficient (DD) meaning that information is insufficient to assess their status (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3897121/) – so there could be many more shark species endangered – or even go extinct. Sharks are not only caught for this fins, as many believe, but these days also heavily overfished for meat, skin, liver and cartilage.

Until 2012, I photographed a lot of ‘tropical’ sharks, the sexy species, so to say. The charismatic species, that people remember, respect and want to save. And thanks to Discover Channel: also fear.

Since then, I have been focussing on the sharks of my home country, the Netherlands. There are nine shark species in our North Sea, but not many people know that they are there.. There are hardly any pictures, and as conservationist Baba Dioum stated: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” So I decided to make them visible. With our Dutch Shark Society, and with my photo and video work. I got help from several organisations, like the Dutch recreational angler union, the weir fisheres and WWF Netherlands.

Taking a picture and a very short video of a Dutch starry smooth-hound in its natural habitat took me eight weeks, but I was the first ever. The picture and the video are still often used: on television, in magazines and conservationists.
I think it was one of the most rewarding projects I ever did!

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