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The Hope of a Fin Free World: Shark Conservation

In my current english class, we had to pick a topic about an environmental crisis and write a research paper. The first thing that came to my mind was to write about sharks. I decided to share it on my blog as well in hopes it makes an impact. Enjoy :)

In 1975, the popular horror film, “Jaws,” struck fear into the hearts of the world. The unknown probability of a man-eating machine patrolling the waters, caused everyday beach-goers to hunt for these animals. Reports of the unnecessary slaughtering of sharks became daily after this phenomenon. From a shark's perspective, they are the prey, and humans became the predator. To this day, sharks are being massacred by the millions each year. Every hour that ticks by, over twelve thousand sharks have been murdered. Most due to shark finning, while others die by sport fishing, hunting, or being caught in nets and debris left by humans. The endangerment and extinction of sharks has grown immensely over the years. There are more than five hundred known species of sharks around the world; Over sixteen percent of all sharks have been threatened with extinction. What goes through a shark's mind as it’s fins are being cut off it’s body? What happens when it gets stuck in a net and has nowhere to go? Why don’t we, as humans, the people that are supposed to take care of this planet, take care of the creatures we share it with? A mind-blowing number of one-hundred million sharks are slaughtered every year due to shark finning and overfishing. Without them, the ocean’s ecosystem will collapse and will never recover. The protection of sharks is crucial and must be acted upon.

To begin, the history of shark finning started in China, and dates back to the fourteenth century during the Ming dynasty. Shark fin soup was considered a delicacy by the nobles and aristocracy. In today’s time, the soup has the same meaning. It is mainly used in ceremonies of great importance or for royalty. The problem is, the soup only contains the fin as a decoration, leaving the rest of the shark to be wasted, only to float finless to the bottom of the sea still alive. The shark finning process is the cruelest, most gruesome killing of any animal in the world. A fishing boat goes out and hunts for sharks. Once one is spotted, it is speared with a trident and pulled aboard. As the shark wiggles and resists against the fishermen, it is restrained and the every fin is cut off its body with a knife while it is still alive. The fins are kept, and the now bloody, finless, living shark is thrown back into the water to sink and drown. This heart wrenching process is the most cruelest and devastating abuse known and it must be stopped. Some restaurants have banned shark fin soup, and have greatly contributed to protecting sharks. Each time a restaurant or sea port bans shark fins, so many lives are saved. The impact this makes is crucial for sharks, many species have become endangered due to the fin trades. Conservation groups and protests have created an uproar of awareness to shark finning and there are high hopes it could be banned for good.

Next, the cruelty and abuse of sport fishing and hunting has also created an impact on sharks. While on vacation at a local beach, there are many signs about sport fishing events that go on daily. In these events, the fisherman must have the biggest catch to win, these catches mainly consist of sharks. During the fishing process, anything can go wrong. If a shark is reeled in, each moment it is not released back in the water can be fatal. Each picture taken with the animal while it is above water could be its final breath. A hook that cannot be removed from a shark's mouth can cause damage and keep it from eating, which leads to death. These fishing events only cause harm to these amazing animals and reaps no benefit. It is highly important that sharks remain left alone and under protection, each death takes a toll on the population. Like finning, fishing and hunting for sport have rapidly growing numbers every day. Sadly, fishing is a harder to protest for not all fisherman seek to kill and a sharks death is seen as an accident. Although these accidents happen, the numbers add up overtime. Sport fishing is harmful to any shark caught in its path, and it is important that shark fishing becomes illegal.

To continue, A shark accidentally caught in a by-catch net left by fisherman is another unnecessary fatality. Many other marine mammals get caught in these border nets, and the damage can never be undone. Activists have attempted to come up with better solutions for blocking beach areas rather than using harmful nets. For example, Marine biologists Dr. Eric Stroud and Dr. Patrick Rice created a magnetic repellent. The two scientists founded Shark Defense almost 15 years ago, and are now the leading researchers in shark repellent technology. In their research, they discovered that magnets can mess with the sharks senses called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. As the magnet sends out pulses, the sharks swim away and steer clear of the area. In an article interviewing the scientists, they state:

As the shark approaches a person wearing Sharkbanz, magnetic waves coming from the band disrupt its electro-receptors and it quickly turns away. The experience for the shark is, “like a person suddenly shining a very bright light in your eyes in a dark room, and it's not pleasant”, according to Dr. Stroud. Once a shark comes near the band, it frequently leaves the area and does not return.

This is a key discovery that could help avoid shark by-catch and fatalities due to nets. Although more tests are being put into place, Stroud and Rice are making a huge impact on the fishing community. With continued studies, scientist hope to put a permanent end on the exploitation of sharks.

Finally, the impact of declining shark populations have had a huge affect on oceanic health. An ecosystem is complex and each animal plays an important role. Sharks balance the oceanic ecosystem and keep everything in check. For example, there is a species of shark that eats a certain type of fish; This is important because this particular fish feeds on algae. If algae takes over a coral reef, a process called “coral bleaching” will take place. Coral Bleaching is defined as the destruction of reefs that cannot be undone. In this process, the zooxanthellae in the coral disappears due to unfit conditions, leaving the coral bleached. After the organisms disappear, the coral remains dead. This is just one of many examples that proves the importance of sharks in an ecosystem. As different species are becoming endangered or extinct, a link in the ecosystem breaks and can affect a large part of any oceanic region. An article by Shark Savers pinpoints the key role sharks play in the ecosystem. In this article they state:

"Sharks play a very important role in the oceans in a way that an average fish does not. They are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem. Sharks have evolved in a tight inter-dependency with their ecosystem. They tend to eat very efficiently, going after the old, sick, or slower fish in a population that they prey upon, keeping that population healthier. Sharks groom many populations of marine life to the right size so that those prey species don’t cause harm to the ecosystem by becoming too populous."

By stating this, sharks are proven to be important and should not be taken for granted or tortured. Without these amazing animals, the whole ocean could fall out of balance. It is crucial to protect sharks, whether stopping the shark fin trade or ending sport fishing, something must be done to protect them.

In conclusion, sharks have been mistreated, abused, and feared for centuries. So many species have already become critically endangered or extinct. It is only a matter of time before the permanent decimation of sharks spreads across the world. Thankfully, there are people that are willing to help and stand up for these animals. Marine Biologist have been trying for years to enforce the ban of shark fins and sport fishing events. The effect technology has had in helping their research has played a crucial part in keeping sharks away from threatened waters. Awareness is a crucial turning point for shark conservation and can have lasting effects on the protection of sharks. Shark finning is the number one killer of sharks worldwide and its numbers continue to rise. This gruesome process is just one of many reasons why sharks are facing critical endangerment. A mind-blowing number of one-hundred million sharks are slaughtered every year due to shark finning and overfishing. Without them, the ocean’s ecosystem will collapse and will never recover. The protection of sharks is crucial and must be acted upon.

Links to help save sharks:

Save Our Sharks:


Support Our Sharks:

Save Our Sharks AU:

#endangered #ocean #marine #biologist #shark