Sharks play a vital role in our ecosystem as part of a complex system of checks and balances. As apex predators they are at the top of the food chain. Many sharks prey upon wounded or sick animals, keeping the populations of various species healthy and in balance, while others scavenge the ocean by feeding on dead animals or by filter feeding. Hunting sharks to extinction will have a catastrophic effect on the world’s ecosystem. Millions of sharks are killed every year. Many sharks also fall victim to finning, the practice of cutting the shark’s fins and then discarding the still-living shark into the sea to die.
With the exception of a few countries that have instituted national measures for their shark fisheries or protection for individual species, there are virtually no controls on shark fisheries around the world. There is an urgent need for management and monitoring to be instituted at the national, regional and international levels to prevent the extinction of species and populations.
The problem sharks face is that they are slow growing and give birth to only a handful of pups. Due to this reproductive strategy, sharks cannot keep up with the pressures put upon them from commercial fisheries. They simply cannot reproduce fast enough. Some species of sharks have been reduced by more than 95%.
Conservation of sharks can be considered on one of three levels, or a combination of all three. There is conservation for the sake of the environment and maintaining its balance; then there is conservation for the sake of humanity, to not allow a living creature to become extinct; and finally, there is conservation for economic reason. No matter what level you are on, conservation depends heavily on education. Shark populations are being decimated throughout the world. Some species are already biologically extinct in some oceans and many others are on the verge of becoming extinct.
We must act now! Sharks are exploited for their meat, fins, cartilage, leather, oil, teeth, gill rakers and jaws. They are directly targeted in some commercial and recreational fisheries and are caught incidentally as bycatch in many other fisheries. Fisheries are a major factor affecting shark populations. The continuing emphasis on shark fisheries appears to be the result of several factors, including the increase demand worldwide for fish protein, a related rise in shark exploitation to replace declining catches from many depleted fish stocks. There has also been a rising demand for the value of shark fins in international trade, primarily a result of the rise in the middle class population of Asia.
How Can You Help?
There are several ways to support Fins Attached. Please feel free to select all of the below or perhaps one that works best for you. An online tax-deductible donation is a great way to directly support our research and conservation efforts. You may do this by going to the Donate page.
BE A MINDFUL CONSUMER
- Only eat seafood that doesn’t have a track record of killing or injuring sharks as bycatch. Longlining is one fishing method that is very harmful to shark populations. Tuna and swordfish are two types of fish that are caught by this method.
- Be a patron of businesses that are mindful about the plight of sharks and in particular do not do business with restaurants that serve shark fin soup or that sell shark products (such as shark cartilage as a health supplement). These businesses are more common than you think and you may be supporting them today. In a polite way, let the manager / owner of the business know why you will not do business with them. You may be the first person to have this conversation with them and it could make the difference in whether they continue to offer sharks products or not.
HAVE CONVERSATIONS WITH PEOPLE YOU KNOW
- People love to talk about sharks and they are generally unaware about the realities shark populations face. They are just missing the knowledge about what actions everyday people can take in their lives to make a difference. Please share your passion and what you know and then refer them to this site for more.