New scientific research estimates that 100 million sharks are killed each year in commercial fisheries – with estimates ranging from between 63 million and 273 million. The research also warns that the rate of fishing for shark species, many of which grow slowly and reproduce late in life, exceeds their ability to recover. Sharks are important apex predators that help to maintain healthy marine ecosystems through regulating species abundance, distribution and diversity. The unsustainable fishing and illegal trade of shark species could therefore have serious negative effects on economies and ecosystems.
“This groundbreaking study confirms that people are killing an enormous number of sharks,” said Elizabeth Wilson, manager of global shark conservation at Pew. “We are now the predators. Humans have mounted an unrelenting assault on sharks, and their numbers are crashing throughout the world’s oceans.”
The catch of sharks in commercial fisheries for their fins, meat, liver oil, cartilage, and other parts remains largely unregulated in most of the world, driving some populations toward extinction. Governments convene this week in Bangkok to consider shark protections under a treaty concerned with regulating international wildlife trade – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Pew Charitable Trusts is calling for immediate action to increase safeguards for some of the most vulnerable species. Proposals to protect oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and three species of hammerhead sharks, as well as manta rays, under CITES will be considered March 3–14, 2013, in Bangkok, Thailand.
The estimates in the study which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Policy – were calculated by adding landed catch data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to estimates of unreported landings, finned sharks, and other discards of dead sharks.
“Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand,” said Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and lead author of the study. “Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many shark species.”
“A simple vote ‘yes’ to support their listing could turn things around for some of the world’s most threatened shark species,” Wilson said. “Countries should seize this opportunity to protect these top predators from extinction.”
You can also support sharks and healthy marine ecosystems by refusing to eat shark fin soup, refusing to buy products made with sharks, by supporting shark and marine conservation organisations, supporting sustainably sourced seafood and by living a more sustainable lifestyle.