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Transcript of Sharks
What's the Problem?
What can we do?
- Based on a controlled sampling study, due to overfishing and bycatch, the following sharks have seen declines in population:
- Thresher Shark (-80%)
- Scalloped Shark (-89%)
- White Sharks (-79%)
- Whitetail Reef Shark (-80%)
- Grey Reef Shark (-97%)
Shark Fin Soup:
- Shark fin soup is a major contributor to the population decline in sharks. Eaten primarily in East Asia, it is considered a culture dish. This is the main reason why fin soup has not been banned. According to recent polls, fin soup consumption is increasing by 5% per year. Common defenses for those who eat it are:
- As a cultural dish, it is a major part of everyday Asian life, and removing it from the menus would be a direct insult to the people.
- It has the religious property to “increase or resurrect fertility”.
- Not enough soup is consumed to put a major dent in shark populations.
- Fin soup is very expensive, so only the fabulously wealthy can afford to eat it.
- Shark fin soup is actually very very nutritious.
"Current estimates reflect that over 73 million sharks are killed each year, although exact numbers are difficult to determine. Up to 90% of some shark species have already been wiped out in areas around the world, probably in oceans near you"
“The declaration that Palau will become the world’s first international shark sanctuary helps fill a dire need to save sharks. Sharks have inhabited our planet for more than 400 million years, but today more than one third of the world’s shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Now sharks will be safe from all commercial fishing in Palau’s waters – an area about the size of Texas.
The Pew Environment Group applauds the Cook Islands for its decision to ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark products and end commercial shark fishing in more than 1.9 million square kilometers (756,000 square miles) of ocean. The Cook Islands declaration follows the recent announcement by neighboring French Polynesia, creating the world’s largest contiguous shark sanctuary of more than 6.7 million square kilometers (2.6 million square miles).
In a move lauded by the Pew Environment Group the Maldives today (March 2nd 2013) declared its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 90,000 square kilometers of the Indian Ocean, as a shark sanctuary free from all shark fishing and also banned all imports and exports of shark fins. The Maldives is home to more than 30 shark species, including the scalloped hammerhead, the most prominent shark to be considered for protection at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Honduras & Costa Rica
The Pew Environment Group praised the governments of Honduras and Costa Rica today for taking the initiative to propose protections for scalloped hammerhead sharks under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). For nearly 40 years, CITES has shielded thousands of plants and animals from overexploitation from international trade, and it is widely considered one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements
Venezuela set forth a series of measures to protect sharks within its waters. Most significantly, commercial shark fishing is now prohibited throughout the 3,730 square kilometers (1,440 square miles) of the Caribbean Sea that make up the popular Los Roques and Las Aves archipelagos, whose pristine beaches and coral reefs make it a diving and fishing attraction.
Scientists have identified Los Roques, located about 128 kilometers (80 miles) off the Venezuelan coast, as an important breeding ground and nursery for populations of several species of sharks, including the lemon shark and the Caribbean reef shark.
In the last 50 years, the slaughter of sharks has risen by 400%, and by 2017, it is anticipated that 20 species of sharks could become extinct. 97 to 99% of certain regional populations of shark species like Tigers and Hammerheads in the North Atlantic are already gone. Even marine reserves like Galapagos and Cocos—where sharks are supposedly protected—are the target of illegal fisheries.
There is no international enforcement mechanism to enforce the laws intended to save sharks.
Sharks, slow to reproduce, cannot sustain the massive fishing pressures they are under. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported over 1/3 of all shark species are threatened with extinction. Many of the species commonly utilized in shark products are considered endangered, vulnerable or near threatened and often are obtained illegally.
A large percentage of shark fishing around the world is illegal and supports a ruthless black market.
Sharks have been part of our ocean’s ecosystems for 420 million years and they play a critical role, helping to maintain a balanced ocean ecosystem. As apex predators, sharks keep the oceans in healthy balance because they are at the top of the oceanic food chain. They regulate species abundance, distribution and diversity, which impacts the health of marine habitats. Additionally, they provide essential food sources for scavengers and remove the sick and weak from populations of prey species.
Sharks are important for our own survival. Half of the oxygen we need for survival is produced via phytoplankton photosynthesis. Phytoplankton is responsible for taking in carbon dioxide molecules and turning them into oxygen. Millions of these tiny marine plants drift near the ocean’s surface. Tiny animals called zooplankton eat the phytoplankton, as well as clams and other small fish. Jellyfish, some whales and other fish in turn eat the zooplankton. Larger fish eat the animals that feed off of the zooplankton and the cycle continues. Any link in this food chain that is missing will create an imbalance.
The decimation of these important shark species can have cascading effects throughout the ecosystems they inhabit, resulting in economically and ecologically devastating consequences. In areas of the ocean where shark populations have been destroyed, some species explode in population and other valuable species disappear as a result. Studies have shown what ocean ecosystems look like, or will look like, without sharks. The many consequences include a collapse in economically important fisheries, the shift of coral reef ecosystems to algae dominated systems, and the decline of sea grass beds. Species diversity and abundance declines with the loss of sharks.
Sharks control the population of species that feed off phytoplankton. A decline in shark populations will cause a steady decline of phytoplankton and, in turn, the oxygen levels of the ocean. Oxygen on Earth is very dependent on the oxygen of the ocean.
1. Support conservation efforts. Groups like Sharklife Conservation, PEW, Shark Angels and Conservation International strive to protect and save endangered sharks. Every donation is important, and no amount is too small. Throw your extra change in a coffee can and watch it add up to a great donation for a worthy cause.
2. Send letters to your State Representatives. It is the responsibility of Congress to help protect the Endangered Species Act, as well as any future amendments to it. Speak your mind and let them know how you feel about endangered sharks, and how crucial they are to the environment. Your representatives can make a difference in the help these sharks receive. Your voice is important.
3. Bring awareness to your community. Learn all you can about endangered shark species so you can educate others. Remember that children are the conservationists of tomorrow. Offer to share your knowledge about endangered sharks with a day care, scout troop or an elementary class.
4. Avoid purchasing products made from sharks. Shark leather, trophy teeth, and seafood such as shark fin soup all create a retail demand for products from this rapidly diminishing species. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
Due to common misconceptions about sharks, people are not as concerned about saving sharks.
These fragile creatures are often portrayed as killing machines, violent predators, and man-eaters, although the amount of shark attacks has declined in recent years.
Public opinion has shifted as conservation efforts gain momentum and research about the sharks becomes available, but still people view sharks as untouchable and powerful because of their menacing appearance and portrayal in movies and television shows.
A valid argument is that most of the ocean is still unexplored, and that it is impossible to know whether or not sharks are going extinct if we don't even know how many there are currently.
That is why research still needs to be done on sharks as well as tagging sharks.
According to the organization Shark Savers, fifty million sharks are killed every year due to bycatch, which is not only the accidental entanglement of sharks in fishing nets, but also the unintended snaring of sharks and not throwing them back into the ocean so that they would have a chance at survival.
There is no incentive for the fishermen to return the sharks to the ocean, as sharks are very high in demand for their fins, and more recently, their cartilage, which is powderized and used in new medicines, mostly in Asia.
Also contributing to the high bycatch numbers are the seasonal migrations of sharks and the time of day that the nets are cast out and brought in. Sharks are most active at dawn and dusk, which is usually the time that they hunt for prey.
Why are sharks so vulnerable?
Sharks are very vulnerable to extinction because they reproduce slowly and take a long time to become sexually mature.
Sharks are sensitive to changes in their environments, such as introduced chemicals and fluctuations in temperature.
Sharks are predators, so they are large and easy to see and target for fishing.
Sharks in Danger
Why save the sharks?
Sharks are crucial components of marine ecosystems everywhere.
As apex predators, sharks help balance populations of fish, which in turn keep the level of plant life and smaller organisms such as crustaceans and plankton in check, leading to a healthy ocean environment.
Also, sharks serve as key indicators of global changes such as changes in the pH of the ocean, concentrations of different chemicals, and climate and cycle differences.
Solutions to Bycatch
In Australia a new study showed, attaching lights and magnets to the once harmful nets kept many marine animals including sharks safe from bycatch. The lights acted as a target for smaller sea life but to larger marine life, the lights drove them away. Also as the magnets were added to nets, the sharks could sense the electromagnetic field leading them to flee far away from harm.
A scientist in Argentina developed a blood test for sharks that will test hormone levels and determine where and when sharks breed, nursery locations, the size at which they achieve sexual maturity, and gender of the sharks. This critical information can provide insight into the behavior of sharks as well as provide fisheries with guidelines as to where and when to fish, as well as what size sharks to set limits on.
Also contributing to the high bycatch numbers are the seasonal migrations of sharks and the time of day that the nets are cast out and brought in. Sharks are most active at dawn and dusk, which is usually the time that they hunt for prey.By changing the time of day or location that the nets are placed, the fishery can reduce the probability of bycatch. Also, the materials of the nets of types of nets can be changed to lessen the number of sharks killed, for example switching to steel instead of nylon material for nets and changing the design of the hooks, has been proven to reduce the amount of sharks caught in fishing nets
Types of Dangerous Nets
Longlines are miles of extended string that have thousands of hooks with bait attached to them, which is particularly deadly for sharks because the longlines are designed indiscriminately for predatory fish, and are often left in the water for long periods of time with little to no supervision, giving ensnared sharks no chance of disentanglement from the hook.
Trawls are seafloor-scraping nets or large nets pulled through the water that are meant to catch shrimp or fish, but since they do not target any specific species or even type of marine animal, many sharks are caught and injured by these nets.
Gillnets are perhaps the most hazardous for sharks, as they are made of clear string or nylon that cannot be seen underwater, and, as the name implies, they catch the sharks or fish by their gills as they try to swim away.
Finning is also a huge factor in the decline of shark populations, more than bycatch, with seventy-three million sharks killed every year, a statistic uncovered through research by Discovery News.
Finning is the removal of the shark fins in order to make shark fin soup, a traditional dish in Asia.
The practice of finning is banned in many countries, and recently the European Union joined in the campaign against finning. Most of the shark is wasted after the fins are removed, and many sharks caught accidentally are stripped of their fins and thrown back because there is no incentive for companies and fishermen to not to do so.
The desire for shark fin soup and other shark-based products has increased over the years as the push for traditional oriental medicine has gained momentum. Shark fin soup, traditionally a luxury item, can now be accessed by people of almost all classes. One of the biggest problems with finning is the illegal catch and trade of shark body parts.
Regulations and Enforcement
Europe and the United States have the strictest laws and regulations regarding finning, although they vary by country and state.
Southeast Asia has the least restrictions on shark products.
South America also participates in shark conservation, but there are not as many species that are located there, so it is not as important of an issue.
The European Union's laws and regulations can be found at this website: http://www.eulasmo.org/v.asp?level2id=6491&level3=6494&rootid=6463&level2=6491&depth=3&nextlevel=6494
Solutions to Finning
By actually enforcing shark quotas and regulations, the amount of sharks finned can be reduced.
Tagging sharks and conducting more research on their sexual maturity and identification techniques can help in ensuring that the sharks being caught are not endangered species.
Cultural Significance of Shark Fin Soup
Throughout history, sharks have been considered symbols of power and luxury, particularly in Asian countries.
Shark fin soup is an important part of cultural identity for many people, especially the aging generation.
There is clash between the younger generation and the old generation, as the younger people want to ban finning and the older people want to keep it because it has been a significant part of cultural traditions for hundreds of years.
Although there are regulations in place across the globe, it is extremely difficult to enforce these measures as there is simply no reason to obey them because there aren’t really consequences to the companies and fisheries that participate in finning and catching sharks.
Shark Conservation is a vitally important part of helping to maintain a healthy balance in the world's oceans. Many organizations have picked up the torch. Most need from concerned people like you. Some fight globally to limit the effects of commercial shark finning. Others concentrate on protecting sharks in a specific region where overfishing and environmental degradation are causing shark numbers to plummet dangerously.
“Gill nets are vertical panels of netting normally set in a straight line. Fish may be caught by gill nets in 3 ways : wedged, gilled, or tangled.
Longline is a common commercial fishing technique. On the mainlines there are baited hooks attached to snoods.
Sharks are facing extinction. All over the world they are threatened by overfishing and because of this many species are endangered. Bycatch and encroachment are major factors in the decline of shark populations. By implementing interdisciplinary strategies, the shark population over time can be restored.
Do not consume or purchase shark.
Be aware, informed consumers.
Speak out and defend sharks.
Spread your knowledge.
Trawling is a method of fishing where nets are hooked to the back of one or more boats and dragged across the water.
What is Finning?
LOOK AT THESE MAJESTIC BEASTS
What is Bycatch?