How Sharks Affect Us All: Ocean Ramsey @ TEDxKlagenfurt (Transcript)

Following is the full transcript of diving instructor Ocean Ramsey’s TEDx Talk titled “How sharks affect us all” at TEDxKlagenfurt conference.

Sharks on a worldwide scale suffer under their reputation as brutal killers. They are close to extinction due to human prosecution. Ocean Ramsey explains why they are a valuable and fundamental part of the oceans´ ecosystems and encourages every one of us to help saving them… for our own good.

Ocean Ramsey – Diving Instructor

What if we were to redefine the relationship we have with sharks, to one based on scientific fact, reality, and logic, rather than the current one, based off of limited and biased information?

I want to talk about how changing the way we perceive sharks and interact with them could change our environment, economies, and lives for the better.

But first, I want to introduce you to someone who has positively influenced and inspired my life’s work, passion, and focus. She’s intelligent, she’s graceful, beautiful, efficient, but what I admire her most for is her very important work and role. What most people don’t know is that without her work and influence, none of our lives would be the same.

And I wanted to describe her to you first, before I showed you her photo, because I’ve come to find that, oftentimes, we make snap judgments, prejudice, based off of very little factual information. I’ve personally found this because oftentimes I’m judged solely off of my appearance or work as a professional model, rather than my primary work in science, conservation, and business.

So, please keep in mind the truth that often there’s more than meets the eye, and when you take time to get to know someone and better understand them, maybe you can better value them. And sometimes it’s a little more interesting than you think too.

So, without further ado, my beautiful role model, Bella, which means beautiful, and yes, she’s a great white shark, or more accurately termed, a white shark, Carcharodon carcharias.

Now, I know you might just be noticing her nice teeth and thinking something along the lines of “monster,” but tonight, put your prior beliefs about sharks on hold, while I explain why Bella is an ideal role model, why we should seriously take action to redefine the relationship we have with these animals, to one based on scientific fact, to that or reality, rather than appearances, snap judgments, and fictitious Hollywood movies.

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Bella and her kind are extremely intelligent. I’ve observed her, and her kind, outsmarting even humans within a matter of moments by adapting her behavior even in novel situations. This ability to quickly adapt has likely led to sharks’ resilience over time. They evolved before dinosaurs, before trees.

They evolved two more known sensory systems than we even have to aid them a high level of efficiency in their very important role in the ecosystems, shaping, influencing them, and making them stronger, and better.

Now, even though they are highly cognitive, cautious, and take in multiple factors before they take action, it is true that on rare, rare, rare, much more rare, occasions than we make mistakes, sharks do make mistakes, and, unfortunately, someone does get bit.

Still, considering the millions of people that enter the water, the oceans, every single day, and the average number of fatalities is five to seven …Now, I feel extremely lucky. I get to spend almost every single day diving with sharks, over 30 different species around the world on a diversity of research programs and conservation campaigns.

My work in marine biology focuses on ethology, which is animal behavior and psychology, and cognitive ecology, where I study the way the animals interact with one another and their environment. I’ve come to observe and learn some of the most fascinating things I wish I had more time to share with you tonight.

But in my limited time with you, what I’ve come to appreciate, what I feel is most important and urgent, and if I could speak up for sharks, what I’d want to share with you, is their very important role and work, and how it affects all of our lives.

Essentially, imagine sharks as the ocean’s immune system, the white blood cells. They pick up the dead, dying, weak, sick, injured animals, leaving only the healthiest to reproduce, keeping lower trophic levels and populations in balance. We all rely on our immune systems, and the scientific evidence for the importance of sharks is mounting.

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There are so many studies that show one after the other that the removal of sharks has environmental and economic negative impacts — Ransom A Myers, Bascompete – effects all the way down to coral reef systems. The removal of sharks has been attributed with starvation.

Throughout the respected scientific community, there’s no denying the importance of sharks, their effects on our environments, our economies, even the air that we breathe. 70% to 80% of the air that we rely on to continue living comes from our oceans.

Either directly or indirectly, we all rely on the oceans. Billions rely on it for seafood, over 200 million rely on it for direct employments. Our lives, our futures, are interconnected.

In the words of one of my human role models, the wonderful Dr Sylvia Earle, “With every drop of water that you drink, every breath that you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on the planet you live.”

But sharks are still scary, right? So that’s kind of the problem. Most peoples don’t know many factual things about sharks, except they have teeth, and many more people don’t know that sharks are actually being decimated, globally, at a rate of over 11,000 every single hour. That’s more than three sharks every single second. That translates to 70 million to 100 million sharks killed every year. That’s like killing everyone in Spain, Austria and France every single year.

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