Earl Xavier C. Go
Nurse by profession, shark fanatic at heart
I was fortunate enough to come to love sharks at an early age, around 7 or 8 years old. It’s an age when kids come to know that they love dogs, cats and even reptiles. While most kids asked for robots or Lego for birthdays and Christmas, I asked for videotapes or books on sharks. I learned to draw sharks, and every new book I got, I read in a week. Over the years, I’d say I’ve built up a significant collection of shark books, videos, posters, DVDs, and other shark memorabilia.
Of late, I’ve taken to collecting miniature models of the different species. There’s a drive in me to know all there is about them even if I don’t have a PhD to back it up. I can tell Lamna nasus (porbeagle) from Lamna ditropis (salmon shark). I can even recognize most of the species commonly and not so commonly seen in photographs. Overall, you could say I’m a shark finatic!
Sharks hold my interest like no other. There isn’t one particular reason why I love them—there are a lot, actually. But if I were to pick one, it would be this: the first sharks appeared in the evolutionary timeline during the Devonian Period, around 450 million years ago. That’s a full 300 or so million years earlier than the first dinosaur and they’ve been virtually unchanged the last 100 or so million years, with the hammerheads being the relative “new kids on the block” since they appeared “just” 10 million years ago.
Just think about how long that span of time is. We humans only came around 2 million years ago and yet, we make big news about finding this certain set of ancient human fossils like we just found Atlantis. Sharks would probably scoff at that and think, “Piece of cake!” I think that when something’s been around for that long a span of time, it definitely needs our respect and it’s worth studying.
When I got wind of the first-ever Philippine Shark Summit on social media, I was thinking how awesome it would be if I could get in. I didn’t even know I needed a formal invite! I sort of snuck in to the venue. I got in through one of the open doors on the balcony of the Provincial Social Hall! I figured I’d act like I was part of the whole thing and no one would probably notice.
Once the presentations started, I was all eyes and ears. It amazed me to know how fisheries are actually affecting the local shark population. I knew it was bad, but the figures surprised me. In the workshops, I was fortunate that Anna [of Save Philippine Seas] was kind enough to allow me to join even after realizing I hadn’t been formally invited. Hearing everyone from different sectors such as government, fisheries, tourism, and youth speak their minds was an eye-opener for me on how the perception of sharks can change if only people were more aware.
It has always been a dream of mine to be actively involved in shark conservation and God-willing, research. With so many shark nuts cramped into the same room and sharing the same beliefs as I do that sharks are totally awesome and need our help, it’s like someone flicked a switch in me.
I have decided to become all the more hands-on in fighting for the cause we all share. Shark Summit 2014 has given me the platform and the initiative to firmly make that decision. I’m neither a marine biologist nor am I associated with Greenpeace or similar organizations. I’m actually a nurse by profession. But my heart beats for sharks and I feel that in the end, it is my calling to fight for their protection and push for others to do the same. I want to see the day when sharks are no longer regarded as mindless killing machines but as perfect predators who we need to keep our oceans healthy for our sake.
Sharks have survived the five mass extinctions that have plagued Earth since they came around. For sure, if we induce the sixth by our own hand, there’s no way they’ll survive. Sharks call this planet “home” too, and have every right to swim free in the oceans as much as we deem ourselves to walk freely on land. We need to remember that we are all connected in the web of life. What happens to them eventually happens to us. Sharks can’t speak for themselves and human ignorance has been their downfall.
Let’s give sharks a voice and a chance at survival.