Shark protections, shark careers, and sharky grammar: Dear Shark Man, Volume 1

Welcome to volume #1 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).

Dear Shark Man,

Have you seen this New Scientist article (“Sharks now protected no matter whose waters they swim in?)
Is this good news? It seems too good to be true.

Skeptical in Seattle

Dear Skeptical,

You are correct to be, um, skeptical. At best, this article is an oversimplification of a very complex problem. Many shark species migrate through the territorial waters of multiple nations, which complicates any conservation and management plans for these species. The Convention on Migratory Species, which is what the New Scientist article is about, is an attempt to help. However, a CMS listing is only the first step, and it does not inherently require any legal protections. Thus far, CMS listings for sharks have not resulted in any concrete legal protections for these species. The World Wildlife Fund’s shark expert, Ian Campbell, has written a great summary of why this CMS news is not the be-all end-all solution that many seem to believe, check it out here:

Dear Shark Man,

If I am describing a sandbar shark, is “sharktacular” or “shark-tacular” grammatically correct?

Curious in Chicago

Dear Curious,

Sharktacular is a compound word, a mixture of “shark” and “spectacular.” The excellent grammar blog Grammarly has a detailed article on when compound words should be closed (two words combined together into one, like bookstore) or hyphenated (two words connected by a hyphen, like long-term).

This article notes that words tend to become closed compound words as time passes and language evolves. Additionally, the word “Sharktacular” is most commonly used by Shark Week, and they spell it as one closed compound word. I’m not comfortable allowing Shark Week to become an accepted standard on lots of topics, but sure, they can be responsible for the correct spelling of a made-up word about how awesome sharks are. Regardless of how you spell the made-up word about how awesome they are, I think we can all agree that sandbar shark is best shark.

Dear Shark Man,

I want to save sharks when I grow up. Can you give me some marine biology career advice?

Student in San Antonio

Dear Student,

I really don’t like to offer anything but the most general career advice. For one thing, I am very early career myself. I also don’t want to limit you to what worked for me, when there are many, many paths to success in the sciences. Additionally, I don’t know anything about your goals, your strengths,—I just don’t really know enough about you to give you any particularly useful advice. That said, I have complied some very general advice on pursuing a career in elasmobranch research in this blog post.Additionally, here is a collection of other potentially useful links with advice from others.

I should note that you said you want to “save sharks,” which means you may be more interested in a career in conservation advocacy than a career in marine biology. I am not qualified to give you advice on such a career.

Dear Shark Man,

What does the sharkmobile look like? Is it a Corvette stingray?

Sharky in Springfield

Dear Sharky,
Like most marine conservation biologists, I got into this line of work for the fat paycheck. I drive a Hyundai Sonata that I got used from my mom, but the novelty license plate does have a shark on it.

Dear Shark Man,

Why do gummy sharks taste like baby powder?

Aghast in Arizona

Dear Aghast,

You are probably preparing them wrong. While I hesitate to give out recipes for shark, gummy sharks are one of the most sustainably managed fisheries in the world, and you can eat them relatively guilt free. Unless you’re asking about the candy gummy shark, not the actual shark. In which case, I only ever really eat those when they’re soaked in vodka as a key ingredient in my SharkNado mixed drink.

That’s it for volume #1 of Dear Shark Man! Keep your Dear Shark Man questions coming, and be sharky to each other!

If you appreciate my shark research and conservation outreach, please consider supporting me on Patreon! Any amount is appreciated.