We can’t discuss shark conservation without talking about ocean conservation in general.
The subject is of course immensely complex. There are many resources that cover in great detail the different ecological areas of the oceans and their inhabitants. It is beyond the scope of our website to cover it all. We have links to great websites such as “Save our Seas Foundation” that are exceptional in covering the educational aspect and in addressing the most pressing issues of ocean conservation.
Sharks play an important role in a healthy ocean environment. By now most people have heard about and understand the concept of ecosystems. They can only function in balance when all parts are intact. Each natural system needs apex predators, and so does the ocean. The lack of predators leads to population explosions of other species, which can be catastrophic.
When man steps in and tries to create a balance by culling or by introducing new predators, it often ends in disaster. A natural balance is still hard to duplicate, once it has been destroyed.
Here are some numbers that will shock you:
- One-third of the more than 500 shark species are threatened with extinction or are close to being threatened.
- More than 40% of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean are threatened with extinction, according to a new report.
- China is the world's biggest importer of shark fins… approximately 10,000 tons a year.
- According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year.
- A recent estimate of sharks killed in the fin trade alone stands at 73 million per year.
- Annual landings of cartilaginous fish reported to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations amounts to around 800,000 tons, but the actual tonnage is likely to be much higher.
- "Shark populations have declined almost 90%"
It is estimated that even if all commercial fishing were to cease, many of the large sharks may not recover within 50 years, if ever.
An estimated 50% of the world shark catch is believed to be taken accidentally while fishing for other species such as tuna and swordfish. Pelagic long-lines, which are single-stranded fishing lines 18 to 72 kilometers long, with an average of 1500 baited hooks, as well as open ocean drift gill nets (often illegal) literally filter marine life from the seas. Having evolved over the past 400 million years at or near to top of the food chain, sharks have developed into creatures with relatively few natural predators.
As apex predators, sharks are not equipped to withstand predation themselves and are highly vulnerable to exploitation.