A new report published in the journal Marine Policy and reported on the ARKive blog, has put a shocking number on the sharks that are killed every year by commercial fisheries. It is now estimated that 100 million sharks are killed, which is the most accurate estimate to date on how some shark species are being brought to the brink of extinction by commercial fishing. Why is this happening?
According to the ARKive blog
, “Commercial shark fishing is driven mainly by high demand for shark fin soup which is considered to be a delicacy in Asia. Sharks are often ‘finned’, which means their fins are removed, and the dead carcasses discarded at sea. However, they are also killed for sale of their meat, liver oil, cartilage and other body parts.
Although a ban on shark finning is in place in the European Union, Canada and the USA, it has not had the desired effect in terms of protecting vulnerable shark species. Fisheries have responded to the ban by no longer finning sharks at sea, instead keeping the carcasses, other parts of which can also be sold. The number of sharks killed has barely changed, the root cause of the problem has yet to be solved, and finning is still widely unregulated in many parts of the world.
The current rates of exploitation are vastly unsustainable and a number of vulnerable shark species are in decline. Sharks are slow to grow and reproduce; Boris Worm, one of the report’s authors from Dalhousie University in Halifax, says, “Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand. Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many shark species in our lifetime.”
Although shark finning is a danger to some species, ocean pollution also continues to threaten not only sharks, but all marine animals. You can learn more about sharks and the fragile state of the world’s oceans at the Indianapolis Zoo’s Oceans exhibit, and you can find out how you can make a real difference to ocean conservation.