“The local fishermen I have spoken to in Southeast Asia, all have been fishing for over 15 years, told me that sharks are becoming very rare or extinct in their area.”
Pierre Fidenci, Founder of Endangered Species International.
Sharks are amongst the earliest vertebrates emerging around 400 to 450 million years ago. There are about 400 known species of sharks. In recent decades the exploitation of sharks has increased dramatically. Nowadays, ninety millions of sharks are being caught a year. They are mostly killed for the trade in shark fins and as bycatch of commercial fisheries. In most cases, shark fishing is unregulated and unsustainable.
All recorded shark species with the exception of makos, have declines by more than 50 percent in the past 15 years. ESI estimates that one third of the world’s 1,044 shark species are now threatened with extinction. For example, the Oceanic Whitetip Shark dropped in population by 99 percent since the 1950s. Other examples include the thresher shark (Alopiasvulpinus), the Silky shark (Carcharhinusfalciformis) and the Shortfinmako (Isurusoxyrinchus) which are at high risk of extinction due to targeted fishing for valuable fins and meat, as well as indirect bycatch in other fisheries.
Sharks are eating both as steaks and as fish and chips. They are also killed for their jaws and teeth. However, the two main factors of shark have been the demand for shark fins and shark cartilage for primarily the Asian market. Asian countries have traded shark finsfor more than 2,000 years, however, demand increased to the point threatening dramatically many shark species. Shark fin soup can sell for as much US$ 200 a bowl and fins up to US$ 700 per kilogram
Sharks are more vulnerable to extinction than most fish. For many, recovery may take decades after fishing pressure is reduced. Their slow recovery is due tosharks are taking many years to reach sexual maturity, having long pregnancies and producing relatively few young. For example, the Dusky Shark reproduces until it reaches the age of twenty five! Based on the latest estimate, only 10% of the sharks remain on the ocean. We are basically hunting them to extinction.
In 2011,79 unprovoked shark attacks (and six fatalities) were reported. Most shark species are docile and harmless. Some sharks are purely plankton eaters like the basking shark or the whale shark. Most attacks occur in North American waters with most incidents happening in Florida.
In Palau, where more than half of tourists participate in diving excursions, each reef shark brings in about $179,000 in tourism revenue annually, or about $1.9 million during its lifetime.
The number of sharks has declined by as much as 99 percent in the last two centuries in the Mediterranean Sea.
The EU has banned shark finning, but their enforcement standards are among the most lenient in the world.
Great white sharks may be more endangered than tigers, with only a few thousand left in the world's oceans.
Actions for solution NOW
Do not eat shark fin soup.
Governments and nonprofit organizations MUST protect at least 12 percent of the world’s oceans within 10 years. That’s an urgency.
Governments must improve the monitoring of fisheries taking sharks and set new limits on shark fishing.
Spread the words. We need to increase public awareness at all levels.
Join Endangered Species International.
Tiger sharks are caught in numerous fisheries worldwide. Products sold from Tiger Sharks include flesh, fins, skin, liver oil and cartilage. © Paddy Ryan.
A lemon shark (Negaprion breviristris) a large coastal shark that is common in the Atlantic Ocean. It is caught commercially on longlines and the meat is dried, salted, or smoked.© Paddy Ryan.
Lemon shark can live up to 30 years old. © Paddy Ryan.