Saving Sharks

Pelagic Thresher Shark, Credit Scubazoo

Shark Stewards is dedicated to saving sharks from extinction. A 2021 study in the scientific journal Nature indicates 71 % of all shark species have disappeared and 77% of oceanic sharks and rays are threatened with extinction. Nearly half the shark populations evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are data deficient, meaning we don’t have enough data to understand them or how to properly manage them.

If We Don’t Act Now, Hammerhead Sharks Will Go Extinct

Shark finning
Scalloped Hammerhead shark finned alive and thrown overboard to drown {Sphyrna lewini} previously caught on longline fishing hook, Cocos Island, Costa Rica, Pacific Ocean, WHS

It is estimated that 73,000,000 – 100,000,000 sharks are killed for their fins, each year.

In the past twenty years sharks have been targeted for their fins to make the luxury shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The dish of the Chinese emperors associated with wealth, generosity and honor, has now become the status symbol for millions of middle class and wealthy Asians.

Extinction is too high a price for hubris and vanity

“Global total shark mortality needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators.” Boris Worm, et al 2010 Marine Science Journal

The current rate of overfishing sharks exceeds their ability to recover.

20 million blue sharks are killed for the shark fin trade every year.

Today, every shark has a price on its head. Driven by the shark fin trade, shark populations are crashing globally. Overfishing using careless methods like drift nets and longlines has killed 90% of Hammerhead sharks and 30% of all pelagic species.

Despite their immense ecological and societal value, marine megafauna are currently threatened by human exploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and ocean warming, which together have triggered population declines and local extinctions of many species over just the past century.

Saving Sharks, Saves Marine Ecosystems

One study predicts that if current trajectories are maintained during the next century 11% species globally will go extinct with; up to 24% regionally. More serious reductions (48% globally; up to 70% at the poles) are predicted if all threatened species eventually go extinct. Among the megafaunal groups, sharks will experience a disproportionate loss of extinction and the functional richness of ecosystems they live in. 

Consumers have the power to save sharks

Since 2006, Shark Stewards has lead the North American shark fin trade ban movement and making shark finning illegal. Shark fins and fin consumption are now illegal in 14 US states and a federal proposal will be reintroduced in the next Congress.

Since 2013 Shark Stewards has shifted focus to the areas of highest shark fin trade consumption, including Malaysia (#2), Singapore (#3) and the largest shark fin consumer, China. We use education and media to motivate youth to stop eating shark fin soup and other unsustainable seafood products.

References

Pacoureau, N., Rigby, C.L., Kyne, P.M. et al. Half a century of global decline in oceanic sharks and rays. Nature 589, 567–571 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-03173-9

Dulvy NK, Fowler SL, Musick JA, et al. Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays. Elife. 2014;3:e00590. doi:10.7554/eLife.00590

Boris Worm et. al (2013) Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks Marine Policy, Volume 40, July 2013, Pages 194-204

Shelley Clarke et. al. (2006) Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets Ecology Letters First published:15 September 2006

Swansea University. “Extinction of threatened marine megafauna would lead to huge loss in functional diversity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200417212930.htm>.