Sharks, The Apex Predators

Sharks, the Apex Predators of the Sea

Behind all conservation, there is appreciation. The most important tool for successful conservation is knowledge, a clear understanding of why you care in the first place. Sharks are a vital species for a healthy ocean, however this fact is often forgotten for dramatic impact in media publications. Understanding why their existence is crucial for our ocean cuts out any clouded judgement upon sharks that may previously exist. 

Sharks are Apex Predators

Sharks are top or “apex” predators in the marine ecosystem. This is because they have very few natural predators. A cascade effect naturally occurs in a balanced, healthy ecosystem, whether it be marine or terrestrial. Sharks as the apex predator, act as a regulator for biodiversity (Friedrich, Jefferson & Glegg, 2014, 3). They directly limit the abundance of species below them in the cascade or food chain. Sharks diets are especially varied, so that no one species of prey will become low in numbers through over predation (Friedrich et al, 2014, 3). If certain populations of prey are low, sharks are able to switch to another food source. This continues throughout the food chain, and is a sign of a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem. It is a naturally occurring event, which is greatly important, to provide a balance of species within the ecosystem itself. 

An Ocean Without Sharks 

Studies have shown that the greater abundance of sharks, the greater the diversity of species (Paine, 1966, 65). When comparing two reefs, one with sharks and one without, the latter circumstance showed species absences. Without sharks, there is a risk of over predation by the middle to lower predatory species with evidence of over eating of vegetation or primary producers (kelp, phytoplankton, or sea grass). Herbivorous preying species are in abundance with increased competition on food sources, called a “Top-Down” effect (Martin, 2009, 111). This results in surplus of middle predatory species, and overeating of the lowest species on the food chain which ultimately effects the species richness, and biodiversity upon the reef. If this was to occur on a larger scale, it could be catastrophic. The health of the ocean would decline, and seriously affect the way we live. 

Ocean Food Web Figure 1: Food web demonstrating sharks as the apex predator. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Ocean Food Web Figure 1: Food web demonstrating sharks as the apex predator. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Sharks have been on this planet for 450 million years, and are pretty amazing creatures. They come in many different types, from the gentle Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), to the notorious Great White (Carcharodon carcharias). Sharks are important for our ocean’s survival and need to be protected. There should be more concern of an ocean without sharks, rather than a beach with sightings and baited drum lines. As the apex predators of our largest ecosystem, sharks deserve our respect and our conservation efforts to protect them. 

Written by Jessica McCabe



Friedrich, L.A., Jefferson, R. & Glegg, G. (2014). Public Perceptions of Sharks: Gathering Support for Shark Conservation. Marine Policy, 47 :1-7. Doi: doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2014.02.003

Martin, R.A. (2009). Hunting Patterns and Geographic Profiling of White Shark Predation. Journal of Zoology, 279(2): 111-118. Doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00586.x 

Paine, R.T. (1966). Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity. The American Naturalist, 100 (910): 65-75. Retrieved from:


Image: Carnivore: Aquatic Food Web. (2011). [Art]. In Britannica Online for Kids. Retrieved from

"Of Shark and Man" Review

Recently, we were given the wonderful opportunity to watch the feature length shark documentary Of Shark and Man. Below, you will find our review of it:

Of Shark and Man represents what all good documentaries should be; a heartfelt story told tastefully, artistically and has the immense capability to move you. David Diley does a fantastic job of balancing his own narrative, the story of Fiji and the story of the sharks of Fiji. He does it so well, in fact, that you do not realize there are three different stories going on, but instead one finely blended tale. 

Everything about this feature length documentary was perfect; the editing, the narratives, the cinematography, the underwater footage - all of it, seriously. David does a marvelous job of getting you interested in his own story by pulling you in with the abstract of Fiji and its' sharks, and finally... delivering fully with his own personal goals within the film, and it is exactly what the title hints at; of shark and man.

This film is not just your basic run of the mill shark documentary. No sir! A lot of documentaries have come out lately where all they are is semi-decent underwater shots, terrible voice overs and zero plot lines. Of Shark and Man smashes those films to bits, and the best part about all of that is that it didn't even try, it is just naturally that amazing and awe inspiring.

The music was like nothing I have ever heard before - it made me laugh, cry, worry and it made me dance, too! It is quite refreshing to hear such tastefully created music, which I may add, was influenced by the culture and way of life of Fiji. Way to keep your film authentic, David!

The way this film blends all of the stories into one beautiful (love) story is absolute poetry. Diley is a master of his craft, and this film is even more proof of his enormous talents! We had so many emotions running through us during the entire film (this is what a good feature length does! It moves you) - happiness, sadness, shock, fear, awe... you name it! 

In our very humble opinion, this film proves to be exactly what it promised to be - real, emotional and thought provoking. Well done David, you have yet again put your money where your mouth is and You, sir, have delivered!

Photo Credit Michael Patrick O'Neill

Photo Credit Michael Patrick O'Neill

Find out more about Of Shark and Man in the following links:

Their Website:

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Also, check out Scarlet View Media:

Our First Campaign of 2015 - Nursery Protection & Shark Monitoring Program: Dominican Republic

It is our absolute pleasure to announce our first (and official!) campaign of the 2015 year! 

"Sanctuary and Monitoring Program:  Dominican Republic"

The goal of this project is to finalize a set sanctuary in the city of Estero Hondo and to develop a local monitoring program for sharks in those waters. Our team is comprised of scientists, conservation leaders and award winning filmmakers. We will be working closely with the local populations to establish these goals.

Our project objectives would be:

  • Establish a finalized protection plan for nurseries used by sharks in the Dominican Republic.
  • Create a shark monitoring program with the locals in the areas to compile and keep data.
  • Document shark behavior through film and photo for conservation purposes.
  • Have ongoing local and international presentations about our work, our procedures and how this project is helping the locals and their economy.

We are in close and daily communication with government officials in the island and with many scientific researchers to make this project a total success. But, we cannot do this without YOUR help!

Hondo Estero, Dominican Republic

Hondo Estero, Dominican Republic

Please, help fund this very important campaign by following the link below. Any amount helps, and with every donation we get one step closer to our project goals. We understand that not everyone can support financially and this is why we also ask that everyone shares this blog post. The more people we reach, the higher our chances are of reaching our goals. 

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Update: Projects, projects and more projects!

Hey there everyone! We figured we'd take a moment and update you all on what we've been up to these past couple of weeks:

  • Currently working on grant proposals for a conservation project we have going on in the Dominican Republic (More details to come soon!)
  • Working on an expedition to Mexican waters with the very talented bunch over at Pelagic Life; the plan is to film Blues and Makos.
  • Creating a small grassroots campaign in Hawai'i where the ultimately goal is to stop souvenir shops from selling shark teeth, bellies as "gifts"

Right now, these are our three main campaigns, but we are also doing many other things as well. We hope that you guys will continue to support us and as always, feedback is appreciated!

Lemon Shark