Sharks today are facing the threat of extinction. It is estimated that nearly 100 million sharks are needlessly taken from the ocean each year. Scientists believe that if sharks become extinct we will essentially destroy the delicate balance that is necessary for the survival of thousands of marine species! Severe depletion of certain species is already revealing devastating effects in some areas of the world. Allowing the marine ecosystem to collapse is not an option for mankind. Considering the fact that at least one third of the oxygen we breathe, and a large percentage of the food we eat, come from the ocean, immediate change from present day practices must be mandated if we are to ensure a healthy future for our children. We have the knowledge, technology and means to implement prudent restrictions, but will we actually make the changes necessary to avoid an otherwise imminent environmental destruction?
There are roughly 500 known species of shark and they have graced this planet for nearly 415 million years. Yet today, sadly, only ten percent of the large predatory sharks remain worldwide-only three are protected by restrictions on international trade (the basking, whale and white sharks). Like mammals, most sharks mature late in life and only produce a few offspring; too often sharks are harvested before they have had a chance to reproduce. Present day fishery regulations, primarily designed for bony fishes, are not adequately protecting sharks. Species such as the great white, hammerheads, tigers, bulls, lemons, and oceanic whitetip sharks are likely to face extinction in the not too distant future unless a resolution for their preservation is demanded by the public and enforced by governments worldwide.
the primary offenders to shark populations are the fisheries that provide catch for the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup. The shark fins are cut off, then the fish is thrown back and left to drown. Because this occurs at sea, few people are aware of this inhumane routine. Can you imagine the public outcry if anyone could remove the appendages of selected land creatures (such as dogs), only to leave them in the street to die? We protect many national treasures by designating them as parks, but sadly we do very little to protect pristine offshore regions. At the time of this writing, while the Gulf coast is suffering incomprehensible damage from the BP oil spill, less than .5 percent of the world’s oceans are under some sort of protected status. According to leading conservationists, at least twenty percent of the world’s underwater areas should be protected as a marine reserve-the Gulf coast is a prime example of a location that needed those safeguards in place, for environmental and economic reasons. Palau is the first nation to designate an area as a “shark sanctuary”, and it is my hope other nations will follow this example.
Many steps need to be taken to replenish shark and fish populations. As individuals, we can have a big impact on how business is done by being a conscientious consumer. Boycott shark products and businesses that produce them, such as Shark Fin Soup; Shark liver oil (squalene) based cosmetics and creams — many face creams, lip balms, and lipstick etc. Endangered deep water sharks are targeted for their liver oil, and plant based alternatives are equally if not more effective; Nutritional supplements like shark cartilage and shark liver oil. Scientific evidence does not support the health claims of these products.