Despite being ice-cold predators, sharks are under threat from something even bigger.
Unfortunately, as is very often the case with endangered species, human activity is the biggest threat to many of the shark species in our oceans – it’s thought that overfishing puts one-third of all oceanic shark species at risk of extinction. The main issues arise from both direct and indirect fisheries of these ocean creatures. In 2014 it was estimated that a staggering 100 million sharks are removed from the ocean each year, mainly as a result of the demand for shark-fin soup. In many Asian countries, this is considered a delicacy and can reach staggering prices of over $1,100 (£875) per kilogram of fin. As a result of this high demand for a luxury dish, illegal, unreported and unsustainable pirate fishing is a common occurrence and incredibly damaging to fragile shark populations. Practices such as finning are exceptionally cruel, as fishermen illegally catch the sharks, de-fin them and toss them back into the ocean. The fin trade, where just two to five percent of the shark is used, affects a huge range of shark species and is one of the biggest threats they face.
Sharks are also very susceptible to getting have a constant flow of water over their gills, means certain death by drowning for these creatures. If this shark is young and has not lost one shark, but also the potential for many more sharks is wiped out with it. As sharks are fished more and more, smaller specimens are being removed from the water and the species’ chances of survival dwindle with the haul-out of every net. Many fisheries don’t report their by-catch of sharks, and this lack of data adds to the plight of shark species as researchers are not able to properly monitor both the fishery activity and the shark population. Pirate fishing causes the same problem. When sharks are illegally removed from their ecosystem it’s impossible to gauge their conservation status accurately, often before it is too late.
For more information about science and technology, visit our website now. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can also download the latest digital version onto your iOS or Android device. To make sure you never miss an issue of How It Works magazine, subscribe today!