Why Sharks? (Part 2 of 3)

The second thing I feel compelled to share is why sharks need our help. I’d hate to regurgitate facts used by Shark Aid UK before through our social media sites, and by others, but I want to try and accommodate for everyone, so will state their threats here. Hopefully there is something fresh in here for you somewhere!

‘Shark finning’ is thought to be the biggest threat to sharks. It concerns all species, and happens globally, and there is now a global demand for the infamous shark fin soup, which this particular practice is carried out to supply for. For anyone looking for more information see our finning fact sheet here with 10 quick facts on the issue.

Over-fishing causes several problems. Methods such as long lining and trawling mean that not only ‘target fish’ are caught, but so are thousands of sharks (as well as dolphins, turtles, seabirds and more!). Furthermore, some of the sharks prey species are reduced meaning they have to adapt feeding behavior find new territory, or starve. The gear used for these methods is very damaging to ocean habitats and inhabitants. Sharks can get entangled in lines and nets (which either drowns them or embeds in their skin leading to infection), and trawlers pick up sediment and rip corals which support all life in the ocean, including sharks.

As a direct consequence of their bad perception, they are often caught in shark nets and drum lines set up off the coast Australia and South Africa originally to reduce the amounts of attacks! The effectiveness of these is questionable. Also, there are often threats from governments, particularly in Australia, to cull them as a form of ‘pest control’ (please refer to my last post as to why this idea is so utterly ridiculous, should you need reminding!). Furthermore there are active shark hunters in some parts that kill the biggest & most ‘threatening’ of sharks to ‘save the public’, and trophy hunting of sharks, particularly Great whites is a big business.

Copyright Rob Allen Photography: As seen here, sharks and divers can swim together quite happily ..

To add to the list further (and I know, its long, but all the more reason to care) their teeth, contrary to popular believe, are often taken from dead sharks as opposed to the many that they shed throughout their lifetime. So please, avoid this type of jewellery item at all costs. Also shark liver oil is used in some Chinese and western medicines so be wary of these. Here is an article on this issue, shared by Shark Aid UK some time ago. I also recently saw some pictures on the Sharks Need Love page, which is run by the lovely Annie Anderson (worth a follow on twitter) showing dead baby sharks being sold in jars of fluid as ornaments in Miami (See here).

Phew.. I think that’s everything. It’s hard because it literally seems that the list of threats to sharks is never ending. Now the natural history of sharks, as a whole, indicates they are slow reproducing. This means that any vast population declines are a struggle for them to recover from. We don’t exactly know the population trends of sharks, some estimates have been as bad as 90% in 50 years as a whole, some regional populations having disappeared entirely, and obviously this varies between species. If you want to delve into the details check out this blog.

In doing my dissertation last year I found some worrying figures. Of approximately 350 sharks listed, there are currently 68 species of threatened sharks (classed as vulnerable or worse on the IUCN Red List), but what is perhaps more frightening, is that 210 species are data deficient. This just highlights that sharks really do need our help to better assess how we can help them. Yet we’re letting them slip through our fingers. Only 7 are protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). I found out by doing a species search here). However, this convention offers varying degrees of protection dependent on species and country, and is somewhat flawed, which I will probably try to explain at a later date. A further 7 species are protected under the CMS (Convention on Migratory Species), as shown here, but as with CITES, these laws and regulations are barely enforced.

For now, I’m sorry for depressing you all, but if we close our eyes to these issues they will continue to worsen. We need to give our beloved sharks a much needed helping fin! I have tried to provide up-to-date information, but as always, if anyone has different information please share and I will update if necessary! 

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