Why Shark Conservation?
Sharks are one of our oceans’ top predators, keeping the entire ecosystem in check. They are vital to the health of our oceans, and studies have shown that reduction in one species causes effects on other species, and sometimes these effects are unexpected and detrimental to local and regional economies.1, 2
Animals at the top of the food chain, such as sharks, have few natural predators, are slow to mature, and have very few young. Some sharks take up to 25 years to reach sexual maturity, have a long gestation period (upwards of a year), and only have a few offspring in the end. As a result, they are extremely sensitive to fishing pressures, and are slow to recover from overfishing. Many shark species have declined in population by more than 90% in the last 50 years.3 Some species may have declined by as much as 97-99% in the last 35 years.4 In other words, as few as 1 out of 100 may be left of some species.
Sharks are often caught accidentally (called bycatch) but sadly, they are also sometimes targeted intentionally by fishermen for their fins. After their fins are cut off, sharks are often thrown back into the water where, unable to swim and bleeding to death, they suffer a slow and torturous death.
Some people have a hard time relating to sharks because of their reputation as man-eating monsters. This reputation is undeserved and is a largely a result of media hype and sensationalism.
The truth is simple: sharks do not target people.
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1 Estes, J.A., et al., "The ecology of extinctions in kelp forest communities," Conservation Biology 3 (1989): 251-264.
2 Myers, R.A, et al., "Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean," Science 315 (30 March 2007): 1846-1850.
3 Myers, R.A. and B. Worm, "Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities," Nature 423 (2003): 280–283.
4 Baum, J.K. and R.A. Myers, "Shifting baselines and the decline of pelagic sharks in the Gulf of Mexico," Ecology Letters 7 (2004): 135–145.