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Humbling View of Sharks Revealed in Stunning Photos

An acclaimed photojournalist's new book documents the incredible images
Related: Earth, Photos

Many thought Peschak's best-known image was a digital fake when it was published, but he says it was actually one of the last photos he took using film before switching to digital. [Credit: ©Thomas P. Peschak, Sharks and People (University of Chicago Press)]

They lurk in nearly ever seascape across the globe, have been around since the dinosaurs and range from 7 inches to 50 feet long. Yet for all their amazing ecology, sharks have had a rough run in the public eye.

"One thing that I have learned during my decade documenting sharks is that they resonate in a different way with each person," photojournalist Thomas P. Peschak writes.

To the shark fin dealer, they're a means of income; to a biologist, a well of information; and often in the popular imagination, they're a source of terror. Using intimate images captured during his career, Peschak presents a visual argument that sharks are worthy of respect and protection in his new book "Sharks and People" (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Ten years ago, Peschak left a career as a marine biologist to become a photojournalist with a conviction that images could be more powerful than scientific data in driving conservation efforts. [Peschak's Photos: Seeing Sharks Up Close]

A blacktip shark gapes and displays 15 rows of teeth designed to aid its predation on schools of small fish. [Credit: ©Thomas P. Peschak, Sharks and People (University of Chicago Press)]

As a graduate student, Peschak studied the impacts of poaching on the South African abalone, but discovered that protection measures were hardly influenced by even the strongest proof that populations of the sea snails were being devastated.

"On the other hand," Peschak writes, "the response to the photographs I took during the course of my research, which showed poaching and seascapes devoid of life, was much more visceral and immediate."

Conservationists worry that sharks are threatened by overfishing. Many species are harvested for their meat, liver oil, cartilage and most of all their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a pricey delicacy in East Asia. According to some estimates, 38 million sharks were killed in the fin trade alone in the year 2000, Peschak notes, while from 2002 to 2012, an average of five humans each year died in a shark attack.

Shark attacks are statistically unlikely, but they have a disproportionate impact on the people and communities involved, Peschak writes. He should know; he witnessed a young diver brought to shore after a bite that resulted in an amputated leg. Peschak recalls that it changed his relationship with sharks forever.

With a camera in hand, it's best to approach the beady-eyed subjects with respect and humility, Peschak writes, but he's found sharks to be more curious than cruel. The real risks he faces are human-caused: political instability of the countries where he works, shoddy aircraft and contact with wildlife traffickers.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Kill all the sharks you want. They are not needed in the oceans and humans most of us will not miss them.

October 07 2013 at 4:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to envoyltd's comment

A pretty ignorant uneducated statement. Sharks are people too... better than people. You're proof.

October 07 2013 at 8:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fretwerk's comment
Paul Revere

Agreed !

December 07 2013 at 6:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
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