William McKeever / HarperOne / 320 pages
William McKeever’s Emperors of the Deep: The Ocean’s Most Mysterious, Most Misunderstood, and Most Important Guardians highlights the significance of sharks to the oceans’ delicate ecosystems and reveals the horrendous threats jeopardizing their continued existence.
The book begins with a description of how movies and the media have created a culture of mass hysteria and fear toward sharks by focusing on the extreme and very unfortunate incidents that have resulted in human fatalities. McKeever then illustrates the mismatch between the hype and the actual risk by revealing the statistically significant data on shark attacks—leading to a conclusion that if sharks intentionally targeted humans, the number of incidents would be vastly higher. Having shown that the probability of harmful interactions between humans and sharks is very small, McKeever offers evidence supporting other theories behind many of the more sensationalized attacks.
After establishing the context that sharks do not routinely target humans, the author weaves his very personal stories with fascinating biological facts about several species of sharks, portraying sharks in a more humane light, with intriguing characteristics and habits. He then does a superb job of identifying and explaining many of the factors currently contributing to the devastation of shark populations around the planet. McKeever also exposes the connections between the shark finning industry and human indentured servitude.
McKeever provides several examples of devastating impacts to other ecosystems when a species is removed, and he leaves the reader with a sense of urgency that action is needed. The book concludes nicely with a sense of hope and suggestions for actions everyone can pursue to help make a difference. From cover to cover, Emperors of the Deep will captivate your attention, inspire you to think about sharks very differently, and convince you that sharks need our help.
—Robert Tomiak, Vice President, Monitor Caribbean