Protecting Sharks

According to Shark Savers, sharks are in serious trouble:

Shark populations face the threat of extinction in every part of the world primarily due to overfishing driven by the high demand for shark fins. However there are additional threats facing sharks that incude bycatch, where sharks are killed when other seafood is being targeted, recreational fishing, sharks being used for ingredients in cosmetics or health supplements, destruction of habitat and more.

Photo of a shark dorsal fin in the waterAs demand for shark fin soup and shark fin products rises, sharks face incredible dangers from humans.  To give you an example of how serious this problem is: all 14 species of shark most used in the shark fin trade are now at risk for extinction.  If you’re wondering what role sharks play and why they are important, check out this statement from the Endangered Species Coalition.  While it speaks specifically about Great White Sharks, the sentiments apply across the board to all sharks facing these threats.

“Why Protection is Needed”

The Great White Shark is incredibly important for maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. Because it is a top predator, it plays an important role in hunting out prey that are not as healthy as others, which keep the stocks that it feeds on in a healthier state. If you remove the top predator from the ecosystem, the repercussions can be quite dramatic. In some cases where sharks have declined there has been a wholesale decrease in all the species in the ecosystem. Ecosystems have evolved over millions of years in a very delicate balance, one in which the white shark as an “apex” predator has helped to maintain.

The shark faces a variety of threats.   Commercially, it is targeted for its fins, jaws, teeth, liver oil, skin and meat.  It is also targeted by recreational sports fishers.  In addition, white sharks are also caught accidently by commercial fishing operations and discarded with the other “bycatch.”

In addition to  Shark Savers and the Endangered Species Coalition, you can learn more about efforts to protect sharks through legislation and raising awareness at the Oceana and Humane Society International websites.