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Will sharks become extinct? Every year 80 million specimens are caught

Sharks have been present on Earth for more than 400 million years, even before the existence of the dinosaurs.

By groundreportdesk
New Update
How many Sharks are killed each year?

Sharks are in danger of disappearing from our oceans due to illegal fishing. Even though many countries have been trying to protect these animals for years, their numbers keep dropping. Unregulated and indiscriminate hunting in the waters of developing countries is the main cause of this decline, which could lead to their extinction, according to researchers.

A recent article in the journal Science warns that shark populations are collapsing and that one out of three shark species is at risk. Despite the increased awareness and efforts of powers like the United States and the European Union to save these animals, there are still millions of people who eat them – especially in Asian countries – and thousands of businesses that make money from their flesh.

One out of three shark species is currently threatened In 2019, 80 million sharks were caught, which is 5% more than in 2012, when 76 million sharks were killed per year. At least 25 million of them belonged to endangered species.

Sharks have been present on Earth for more than 400 million years, even before the existence of the dinosaurs. They have withstood five mass extinctions and serve as a crucial component of numerous ocean ecosystems, playing a vital role in maintaining food chains and the general well-being of the oceans.

Sharks are one of the most threatened species on the planet due to human activities, including overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution. Despite their ecological importance, sharks are often seen as a danger to humans, and their numbers have been declining rapidly over the past few decades.

We eat shark without knowing it

Researchers spent three years gathering data on fishing regulations and shark mortality, and they were surprised to discover the widespread prevalence of shark meat, oil, and cartilage trade," says Boris Worn, the lead author of the article and part of the Biology Department at Dalhousie University in Canada. He added that, "Many products include sharks without consumers realizing it.

Mortality patterns, however, reveal that this problem does not occur in the same way globally. "The area of the ocean where the animal is found determines mortality," Pedro Pascual, a researcher at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO-CSIC) explains. The study shows an increase in mortality by 4% in coastal waters, but a decrease by 7% in pelagic fisheries – on the high seas–, particularly in the Pacific and North Atlantic."

These data match the various management forms of this fishing resource worldwide. Some places have minimal to non-existent regulation, and international surveillance organizations cannot reach them, such as certain regions in the African continent like Mauritania and Ghana, and South America like Mexico or the Philippines. Pascual reveals that fleets come to these places, ignore the scant legislation, and exploit the prevailing corruption.

Fishing exerts added pressure on the establishment of fishmeal factories in some parts of the African continent. Countries like Mauritania or Morocco have proven that this is a profitable business that does not require an extensive investment and can utilize unused fish. The number of these factories has increased from 23 to 30 in less than five years. "This also imposes excessive pressure on the shark populations," the researcher insists. The same Korean trawlers that supply these factories are responsible for fish feed production.

How many Sharks are killed every Year?

Today, 70% of the world's countries have enacted various laws to protect sharks. However, some of these laws, which first came into being in the 1990s, act as a double-edged sword, creating counterproductive consequences that kill even more sharks.

The alarming truth is that about 100 million sharks are killed annually worldwide, according to a paper published in Marine Policy in 2013.

Shockingly, this means that approximately 6.4% to 7.9% of all shark species are lost every year, translating to the harrowing reality of 11,416 sharks being killed every hour.

This trend is contributing to a significant decline of over 70% in the global shark population over the last 50 years, which is extremely concerning.

Specifically, Asian fleets have emerged a type of piracy that usually garners the approval of the fishing authorities of some countries in exchange for large sums of money. "These fishing vessels flood the coasts of these countries, they pay only for the license and operate freely and with impunity," the researcher explains. The researcher also says that these countries do not have sufficient resources to control these activities.

How many Sharks are Killed an hour?

It is estimated that around 11,400 sharks are killed every hour, primarily due to human activities such as overfishing, bycatch, and the demand for shark products such as shark fin soup.

In Europe, the situation differs greatly. Both the Spanish and Portuguese fleets, being one of the largest importers and exporters of sharks in Europe, have been complying since 2009 with an Order from September 28 of that year. This order protects the hammerhead shark and the thresher shark by prohibiting their hunting in all instances, and it also sets regulations on catch limits for other species.

"Before 2009, researchers caught between 15 and up to 50 tons of different species, but now, the balance reveals zero kilograms,” the researcher says. “Observers on board” also monitor these restrictions in both fleets, ensuring they return all protected species to the sea without damage.

This limitation has favorably impacted these species, and they are beginning to regain the population densities of yesteryear. The oceanographer reveals, “For example, in the Canary Islands, we can already see hammerhead sharks near the coast, something that was unthinkable 40 years ago."

Why are so many Sharks killed?

Sharks are one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned creatures on the planet. They have been around for millions of years and play an important role in maintaining the balance of the ocean ecosystem.

Yet despite their crucial ecological role, sharks are dying at an alarming rate, mainly due to human activities.

One of the main reasons sharks are killed is for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in some cultures, particularly Asia. Shark fin soup, a popular dish in many Chinese restaurants, is made by removing the fins from live sharks and then dumping the rest of the carcass into the ocean.

This practice is known as shark finning and is responsible for the deaths of millions of sharks each year. The great demand for shark fins has boosted the market for this product, making it one of the most lucrative businesses in the fishing industry.

How many humans are killed by Sharks?

For every 100 million sharks killed per year, about six to eight humans are killed by sharks every year.

The 2009 one isn't the only current regulation. For a while, to continue supplying the Asian market, fishermen specifically concentrated on cutting the fins off the creature (one of the most consumed pieces) and returning the body to the ocean. This action inflicted a lengthy and excruciating agony on the shark.

The consequences of this practice, called flapping or finning, were atrocious for the animals. And when the shark returned to the sea, still alive, its life became hell. Unable to maintain his balance and swim, he fell to the bottom while bleeding to death and drowning, as motionless sharks are doomed to suffocation.

Many NGOs and animal groups lodged complaints and revealed the cruelty caused by this practice. Consequently, in 2012, the European Parliament, by an overwhelming majority, approved its ban. This was not its first regulation, as a previous one in 2003 still allowed the practice under certain circumstances. The new rule, therefore, marked a significant turning point in the recovery of these species, at least in the Atlantic.

In the researcher's opinion, these data demonstrate that "This species could recover if there were not so much illegal, uncontrolled trawling and longline fishing." The study published in Science stresses that implementing shark sanctuaries and protected no-capture areas can stave off shark mortality.

"One problem hindering this animal's recovery is its low reproductive capacity. Many shark species reproduce only once or twice a year, not in vain. Even the species with the highest fertility barely produces 30 embryos. Furthermore, these species take about 10 years to reach maturity," explains the researcher.

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