Next time you find yourself in the sea and you spot a triangular fin bearing down on you – perhaps with some eerie music going der-dum der-dum der-dum dum dum dum dum, in the background – be sure, before you get eaten, to offer up a silent prayer of gratitude to Gaia.
That shark may be all that stands between you and the deadliest threat in the history of the world: climate change.
For this fascinating theory we must thank Peter Macreadie, a marine ecologist at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, who has been looking into the effects of a local shark culling programme.
Unsurprisingly – well, he is an ecologist – he has concluded that culling sharks is a bad thing.
More surprising, though, is his reason why: sharks eat the sea turtles which eat the sea grass. And the more sea grass that gets eaten, the worse global warming gets, apparently.
“Sea grass store vast reserves of carbon within sediments and with more sea grass being consumed the carbon is unlocked and can be released into the earth’s atmosphere accelerating climate change,” Macreadie said in a university statement.
“If we lost 1 per cent of the ocean’s blue carbon ecosystems it would be the equivalent of releasing 450 million tons of carbon annually, that is the emission of 97 million cars or the annual carbon emission of all of Australia,” Macreadie told broadcaster ABC on Tuesday.
Perhaps I’m being unduly cynical here but I can’t help noticing that Macreadie’s discovery coincides with a conference in which 70 of the world’s shark attack experts have gathered in Sydney, Australia, to discuss what to do about the menace of the killer sharks responsible for about a dozen maulings and two fatalities along the 1,250 mile coastline of the state of New South Wales this year.
Among the methods I expect are being recommended are: special underwater shark aromatherapy music to lull the sharks into a warm, beneficent state where they feel nothing but love for humans; compulsory chain-mail for all swimmers and surfers; all beaches to be mined to discourage sea-related leisure activity; free therapy sessions to help shark attack victims see their limblessness not as a curse but as a vital contribution to the marine food chain.
Those are just my guesses, obviously, based on the simple fact that shark experts will always tend to put fins before fingers.
But this new excuse that sharks make a vital contribution to the battle against climate change is a new one on me. If it is true, though, I say we cut out the middle man, cull the killer sharks as we were before and just eat all those turtles ourselves. Turtle soup is really delicious, apparently, and if we can now eat it with a clear conscience – secure in the knowledge that we are saving the planet from the greatest threat it has ever known – then we shall owe Peter Macreadie a huge debt of thanks.