sharks in trouble | pangeaseed
in the past 50 years, humans have turned the tables on the oceans. It is feared that sharks could possibly become extinct in the next decade or two. many shark populations have declined by as much as 90%. of all the shark species assessed by the international union for conservation of nature (iucn), 110 are classified as endangered, threatened or vulnerable. sharks now represent the greatest percentage of threatened marine species on the iucn red list. despite these mass declines in shark populations, only four shark species included in the convention on international trade in endangered species (cites) regulations are protected internationally.
there are various reasons for the rapid decline in shark populations: overfishing, destructive fishing practices, trophy hunting, habitat destruction, and shark finning.
sharks are being overfished in many parts of the world at an alarming rate. sharks are highly vulnerable to overfishing because they are generally slow growing and long-lived. females reproduce late in life and have few offspring. with some sharks taking as long as 30 years to reach sexual maturity. this makes them inherently vulnerable to exploitation and slow to recover from population declines.
the nations with the highest shark catches are indonesia and india, though much of their bounty is shipped to hong kong, which handles between 50-80% of the global shark fin trade. shark products are used in fish fillets, supplements, cosmetics, leather, pet food, and even in the “fish” portion of fish and chips.
the most financially valuable part of the shark, and a primary incentive for shark fishing, is the fin. large numbers of sharks become victims of the barbaric practice known as shark finning. in the practice of shark finning, a shark is caught, usually using a longline with baited hooks, and then pulled on board where fishermen cut the fins from the shark with no anaesthetic relief. often still alive, the shark is thrown overboard and unable to swim and in agonizing pain, the shark then sinks to the bottom of the ocean to either drown or be eaten alive. this is not only a terribly cruel practice, but is also highly wasteful.
global shark populations are being decimated to satisfy the persistent demand for shark fin soup. shark fin soup is a symbol of wealth and is served at weddings, business dinners and important social engagements within chinese communities worldwide. the fin trade is a multibillion-dollar industry, rivalled in revenue by illegal drugs and guns.
sharks fins are popular based on health claims of scientifically unproven benefits. in fact, shark fin can be harmful; studies show that sharks contain among the highest levels of toxic mercury found in fish. ingestion of mercury can lead to neurological and behavioural disorders, and can cause damage the kidneys and thyroid.
the global populations of this important apex predator are rapidly plummeting as you read this. it is imperative that the destructive practices that kill sharks come to their rightful end. humans are merely one of the many species coexisting on earth. we have no right to commit genocide on such a massive scale that it permanently alters the balance of our planet. each of us must take the responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can avoid purchasing shark products. now is a crucial time to declare shark sanctuaries and promote shark conservation worldwide before the rulers of the seas disappear forever.