largely because of overfishing, but a new study shows they’re even worse off than previously thought!!!
In a sweeping survey of
from the Central Pacific to the Bahamas, scientists discovered that about
were devoid of sharks
As essential apex predators, sharks help keep fish populations healthy by eating sick individuals and preventing prey numbers from exploding. Two-thirds of the world’s 500 shark species are threatened by overfishing, often to meet demand for shark meat and fins, while nets and longline fishing equipment that unintentionally trap sharks have also severely diminished their numbers.
The oceanic whitetip “has declined by 98 percent in the last 60 years. That pattern is consistent across all three oceans. The International Union for Conservation of Nature now lists the species as critically endangered. Scalloped and Great Hammerhead sharks have met a similar fate. Though fisheries rarely target oceanic sharks, if they’re caught, their meat, fins, gill plates, and liver oil is often sold. Combined with the increasing rarity of sharks, this means that the chance for an individual shark to get caught is now 18 times higher than it was in 1970.
This is terrible news both for the sharks and ocean health, as these top predators play a crucial role in the food web, by keeping smaller predators in check.
The impact of overfishing, accidental or otherwise, on sharks should motivate governments to impose more regulations, with the goal of making fisheries sustainable. It’s also important to limit the international trade of threatened shark and ray species. By more carefully regulating how sharks are fished and reducing the number of sharks caught accidentally as bycatch, populations will have more of a chance to recover
Helping people around the world understand how important sharks are to the health of the oceans is a critical step. And part of that process may involve switching from fishing to ecotourism centered around sharks and the reefs they call home