Sharks: Survivors or an Endangered Species

Hammerhead

Sharks have inherited an awesome reputation as fearsome creatures that prey on marine life and humans. The movie Jaws has a lot to answer for when it comes to the shark's bad reputation as Jaws depicted the Great White involved as a fearsome predator that was out to attack and eat the citizens of Amity should they dare venture into the water. Some shark species however are becoming endangered for all kinds of reasons. Here we take a look at the facts.

Why Are Sharks Becoming Endangered?

Sharks are becoming endangered due to commercial and recreational fishing, damage to their habitat, reduced coastal development and also marine pollution. Shark products are in huge demand from fisheries, while these companies are rarely monitored for their practises if at all. Shark fin soup is considered a delicacy with many of us not taking into consideration how the fins were sourced.

Some species of shark have declined in numbers by 70%, while others have declined by a whopping 90%! Sharks take many years to mature too therefore if young sharks are taken there is no time for them to reproduce which also affects the shark population in terms of survival and numbers.

Many of us may think, why do we care if the shark population is in danger? Whatever creature we are we all play our role in our own habitat, while the shark is no exception. These predators play an important role in the health of the oceans. Without sharks the whole of the food chain would be at risk.

Captured Shark

Conservationists are indeed worrying, as these statistics show shark numbers are dwindling, while it is thought that up to one hundred million sharks are killed every year which is a phenomenal figure! Many fishing methods are barbaric with fishermen catching the sharks, cutting off their fins then returning the shark to the water. This results in the shark suffering an awful death by suffocation.

European sharks are hunted for their flesh too therefore it isn't just Asia that needs to look to itself. Bycatch is also a threat to sharks as they are unintentionally caught up in nets not dropped to capture them. Tuna fishermen can often catch sharks in this way, while bottom dwelling sharks are particularly vulnerable from Bycatch.

What can be done to ensure the Sharks Survival?

Many nations are members of CITES  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. As recently as 2013 members of CITES overcame the opposition of some members who objected to a proposal in 2010 put forward by America and Palau to regulate trade of the Oceanic White Tip, Dog Fish and Hammerhead Sharks.

This 2013 agreement was quite an achievement as it overcame opposition from countries who are foremost in shark fishing i.e. China and Japan. Now these species will be protected from trading without permission from CITES. These are

  • The Oceanic White Tip
  • Porbeagle
  • Hammerhead (3 Species)
  • Great White
  • Basking
  • Whale Shark

Even when countries are given permission to fish for any of these species they will have to prove they are harvesting the sharks legally and sustainably.

Endangered and Critically Endangered Species

  • Ground Shark, Pondicherry Shark, Critically Endangered. Many other Ground Sharks also at Risk
  • Ground Shark, Ganges and New Guinea River, Critically Endangered
  • Dog Fish, Dumb Gulper Shark, Endangered
  • Angel Sharks many type Endangered and Critically Endangered
  • Mackerel Shark many species
  • Ground Shark many species
  • Dog Fish many species
  • Carpet Shark many species
  • Angel Shark many species

Vulnerable Species

dead mantas

Conservation Programmes

Many organisations are concentrating on protecting the natural habitat of the shark. This will ensure that sharks can feed in their natural areas instead of being driven inland to feed resulting in the shark versus human encounter.

Changing the types of net used by fishermen is another way to help prevent different types of shark - http://www.sharkgame.net/types-of-shark.html from getting accidentally caught in nets. Boat and swim free zones are also muted as a way to protect sharks as sharks can then investigate and explore without the fear of humans inadvertently crossing their path.

How Can We Help?

Joining a conservation group is one way to make your mark. Donating time or money to help in conservation programmes is very satisfying as they work hard to try to get countries to change their ways when it comes to fishing and the conservation of sharks.

It is thought that up to 270,000 sharks are hunted and killed every day somewhere in the world. This is a staggering figure! Organisations you may wish to consider include:

  • Shark Water - Help Spread the truth about sharks by watching the Shark Water dvd (Download it here at iTunes) and share the Shark water website with your friends.

    Shark Water Trailer

  • Shark Savers - An organisation that works hard to promote the awareness of the importance of sharks in our oceans and why they need protecting more than ever before.

    Watch Sharks Count Video

  • WWF: Protecting wild life all over the world through awareness campaigns. Their ultimate goal has always been "people living in harmony with nature" - so we're about respecting and valuing the natural world and finding ways to share the Earth's resources fairly.