Close on 73 million sharks are murdered each year, and this is a conservative claim. If the wholesale slaughter of these magnificently adapted creatures is not stopped with immediate effect, sharks may well join the ranks of the dodo, the Tasmanian wolf and the quagga.
bodies are struggling to get the attention of world governments in an effort to regulate shark fisheries but the fact that sharks have a poor public image in conjunction with the low economic viability of these fisheries has made this task near to impossible.
7.8 million sharks killed off the Southern African coast alone
Recent literature published in the National Geographic suggests that 7.8 million sharks are killed off the Southern African coast alone each year, and largely by mistake. Hooks intended for other maritime creatures often find sharks instead and although recreational fishermen are slowly embracing a ‘catch and release’ method, many opt to remove the shark from the planet permanently.
The insatiable Asian appetite for shark fin soup and other mythical delicacies has elevated the status of at least 1/5 of all shark species to the seriously endangered list but it is not only the rampant killing that is so disturbing, it is the unconscionable cruelty that shows a total lack of respect for the species.
The fin is generally removed with a hot metal blade but instead of putting the critically maimed creature out of its misery, it is simply tossed back into the water to die a slow and painful death. The immobile victim will either suffocate or fall prey to other ocean going predators.
It is not only the east that is responsible for the unprecedented depletion of shark stocks throughout the world
- In Australia, the main ingredient of fish and chips is shark, disguised as ‘flake'.
- In India, baby sharks are considered a rare delicacy and are the main component of the popular dish ‘sora puttu’.
- In Iceland, the national dish is ‘hakarl’ or fermented shark.
Late maturation increases vulnerability
What makes the shark particularly vulnerable to extinction is the fact that they mature later than other animals and consequently cannot breed rapidly enough to sustain their populations. It has been documented that some species have declined by over 90% in the past 30 years but an overall 70% decline would not be out of the ballpark.
The Great white shark, vilified in the cult movie ‘Jaws’, has made it onto a rather unenviable list, that of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species or C.I.T.E.S Appendix II list of endangered species but fortunately the sheer majesty and brute power of these sharks has won them a few friends.
Shark cage diving leads to a better understanding
Shark cage diving off the coast of Cape Town, for instance, has had a positive impact on the future of these beasts. By observing them closely in their natural habitat, a lot has been learnt of these demonized creatures of the deep. Finally some of the myths that have led to the brutal killing of this magnificent creature have been laid to rest but the industry as a whole needs to be effectively regulated if we are to protect the dwindling number of sharks in our waters.