Shark Shout Out
Two recent fatal shark attacks and several scary encounters on Australia's western shores remind us of their presence, it would appear numbers of the men in grey suits are flourishing. Though recent events have made sharks more visible, their global populations are staggeringly low.
So, why should we worry about these sharp-toothed fish that parade through our lineups? While global populations have declined by 90% and at least one in five shark species around the globe are threatened with extinction, the loss of even one species would have wider implications for the ocean as a whole.
Though many shark species cannot be classified due to lack of information, the International Union for Conservation of Nature warns a third of the world's shark species population may already be threatened with extinction.
The shark's role as an apex predator maintains balance of a healthy and abundant ocean ecosystem. Sharks eat weak, old and sick animals, keeping prey populations in check and healthy. Though we fear shark's demeanour and predation, shark populations are very fragile. Slow growth, late reproductive maturity and an inefficient reproductive process inhibit species recovery and means shark populations are vulnerable to outside pressures and are susceptible to exploitation from overfishing, bycatch and finning.
Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world's oceans, and bans on finning regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species cover only three types of shark – basking, great white and whales sharks.
Sharks future hinges upon fishing and trade being held at sustainable levels. Conservation organisations, such as Project Aware and Australian Marine Conservation Society are lobbying the Government for sound science and research to underpin fishing limits and reflect a defensive approach. Further research and habitat protection will help shark populations to be most effectively protected.
As ocean-centric people who engage with the water everyday surfers mindful of the health of our oceans should participate in its balance and protection.
This week Project Aware's Shark Shout Out is gathering support and petitioning for policymakers worldwide to insist on full protection for endangered sharks.
Sign the petition below to add your support and check out Project Aware's website for more information on sharks and their protection.
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