Don't Buy Modern Shark Teeth - You Are Encouraging Shark Poaching
How movies and documentaries can unintentionally increase shark poaching
Don't Buy Modern Shark Teeth - You Are Encouraging Shark Poaching
It seems like every time a new shark documentary, or shark movie comes out I get a handful of requests for "real great white teeth from caught sharks". I always reply the same, that I have fossilized great white teeth for sale but don't have any modern teeth and that buying or selling them encourages poaching and the killing of an animal that is considered "Vulnerable" and may be on the way to becoming an "Endangered Species". Most people understand but I still get quite a few questions or comments about "how just 1 tooth can make a difference?", "what about teeth that came from sharks that died from natural causes?", etc.
In an effort to answer some of those common questions and provide a little education on why buying or selling modern (non-fossilized great white teeth) is contributing to the species declining and damaging our oceans I wrote this article.
Interest Creates Demand
As new people are introduced to sharks, great whites, extinct megalodon, etc through documentaries, movies, and TV specials more people are exposed to the fascinating create that is the shark. Many people did not think twice about sharks before seeing Jaws or watching Shark Week, and every year more and more people learn about sharks.
With that increased exposure creates an increase in interest among the general public and a percentage of those newly interested people will want to touch or own something that makes them feel more connected to sharks. They will then look to purchase a shark tooth, a t-shirt, or other item due to their new interest. This increase in interest by the general public creates a spike in demand.
A perfect example of this is the is the price of insects encased in amber. Prior to the 1993 release of the movie Jurassic Park amber and ancient insects trapped in pieces of it was considered a niche collectors market. After the release of the movie millions of people were exposed to it and became interested and the amount of amber sold, and the price at which it sold increased by over 20x.
Demand Increases Price
As more people become interested in sharks teeth the demand for those teeth goes up, and with modern shark teeth in short supply the price of those teeth increases.
With fossilized shark teeth, specifically great whites that increase in demand slightly increases prices; however, with modern shark teeth including great whites, when there is a new movie or documentary many people will try to purchase a tooth and that increases the overall demand and therefore price. When there is very little public interest in an item the value stays very low, however when people suddenly become interested and look to purchase great white teeth the increase in demand takes an item left over from a bygone era of shark harvesting that had very little value and turns it into a collectable that requires killing sharks. The more demand the higher the price and the more modern sharks are killed.
Increased Prices Drive Poaching And Shark Killing
Some modern sharks including the great white shark have restrictions and some levels of protection in many countries, however with the price of shark teeth occasionally spiking due to public interest poaching great white sharks becomes very lucrative.
The problem becomes that as prices go up the motivation for people to sell modern shark teeth increases and unlike fossilized shark teeth the only way to acquire modern great white teeth is to buy them or kill living sharks. Fossilized sharks teeth that came from sharks that died of natural causes millions of years ago can be found on beaches, in creeks and rivers, and other sites. Unfortunately when demand increases for modern great white shark teeth the incentive for fishermen to become poachers goes up.
Before Jaws was released in 1975 the public was not terribly interested in the great white shark, however after the movie was released and became a phenomenon the demand, price, and killing of great white sharks increased substantially. Almost overnight the value of a great white shark tooth went up about 100x. There are several articles and studies that discuss how detrimental the movie Jaws was to the great white population, an increase in sport fishing for them, trophy hunting, and demand for their teeth and jaws lead to a huge increase in the number of sharks killed.
Due to the current demand a single modern great white shark tooth can be worth over $1,000 so if a live great white is caught it can be worth well over $20,000 due to the many teeth it has. The temptation for a fishermen to become poachers given the opportunity is significant.
Killing Great White Sharks For Their Teeth And Fins Damages The Ocean
Removing apex predators from the ecosystem can have extremely detrimental effects on the ocean's ecosystem. While great whites and other sharks can be scary driving them to extinction would be a loss for the planet and a loss for humanity. Increased demand and prices causes great whites to be poached at an increasing rate. So buying "just one modern great white shark tooth" is just like buying one recently shot lion mount, one recently harvested elephant tusk, etc.
What Can You Do To Help
If you want to help reduce the number of great whites and other sharks that are being poached there are causes you can support, people you can help educate, and many other things that can be done. However, one of the simplest ways to help prevent great whites and other sharks from being killed is to STOP BUYING MODERN SHARK TEETH. If no one, or very few people buy them demand will drop as will prices, as will the motivation for people to kill sharks.
Modern Shark Teeth vs. Antique Modern Shark Teeth
The problem with all modern (non-fossilized) shark teeth is that it is impossible to tell if the shark was killed legally 40 years ago or was poached off South Africa a few months ago.
Buying "antique" or "legal" modern great white comes with several problems.
- You don't know if the tooth was legally harvested decades ago or if it was recently poached
- Even if it was legally harvested 50 years ago purchasing that tooth means there are fewer modern shark teeth on the market which will increase overall demand
- When money is involved people are willing to do things they normally wouldn't, modern great white teeth are unfortunately worth a lot of money so people are willing to look the other way or just be unethical
Fossilized Great White Teeth And Other Fossilized Shark Teeth
Interest in sharks will not go away any time soon, hopefully through education the desire to own modern shark teeth will. A great alternative to purchasing a modern great white tooth is to buy a fossilized great white tooth. You get a real shark tooth but are not encouraging poaching as any great white shark teeth that are fossilized have been dead for millions of years and died of natural causes. People will always want shark tooth necklaces and to be able to hold the tooth of such an impressive predator, purchasing fossilized shark teeth allows you to own one without funding poaching.
In the article above I talk primarily about great white sharks, this is because when it comes to Shark Week shows and movies the great white is often the star. That stardom comes with increased exposure and eventually poaching; however there are many other sharks that are victim to poaching for their teeth, fins for soup, etc. Killing sharks simply for their fins or teeth is a major problem effecting the oceans especially as it relates to species who's numbers are reduced and have been classified as Venerable or Endangered.
This article is not meant to be an attack on responsible commercial or recreational fishermen. I am a recreational spear fishermen and meat eater myself. Some species of sharks who have a healthy population can legally be harvested for FOOD in a way that is environmentally responsible.