Happy Shark Week! Here are some things you should know to keep you from worrying so much at the beach.

If you plan on 'celebrating' Shark Week like the Discovery Channel does, here are some things we can tell you right now, in case you missed our friends from the NJ Sea Grant Consortium on our show Friday.

Sharks are crucial to the well-being of our ocean. But if you're worried about being bitten by one, let's put it this way: You are 33 times more likely to be bitten by a dog than a shark.

And if you are still thinking you shouldn't swim in the ocean because you could get killed by a shark, you are FAR more likely to get killed by hot water, icicles, falling out of bed, toasters, toilets, and even vending machines!

In fact, we are much, much more of a threat to sharks than they are to us. Humans kill about 100 million sharks each year, mostly for their fins.

The ocean ecosystem is made up of a large pyramid of interconnected feeding relationships. Sharks are at the top. They prey on mid-size predatory fish which prevents those fish from becoming too populous and wiping out smaller fish. Sharks also eat weak and sick fish This prevents the spread of disease and strengthens the gene pool for each type of fish.

Depletion of sharks would also cause serious damage to coral reefs, sea grass beds, and even the fish we like to eat including tuna, scallops, and clams.

Here are some fun facts about sharks:

-- Sharks have been here for over 400 million years and have survived 5 mass extinctions including the last one 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs.

-- Because they rarely get sick, sharks could be the secret to curing diseases. Scientists are studying sharks now for possible cures for things like viruses, cystic fibrosis, and cancer.

-- Sharks keep the ocean healthy. Therefore our existence, in part, is dependent on theirs, since the ocean is our largest and most important ecosystem.

And here's something else to keep in mind. There is a national average of 100 deaths per year due to rip currents, plus the need for tens of thousands of rescues. Whereas last year, worldwide, there were 81 shark attacks and 4 fatalities. So which is more dangerous? The rip current, by far.


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