Sharks across the globe are still under threat, but what do we really know about how sharks are being threatened?
Threats to Sharks
- Bycatch: Bycatch is the accidental capture of non-target fish and other marine life, and occurs in fisheries around the world. According to a 2014 bycatch report by Oceana, 12 million sharks and rays were captured by fisherman each year throughout the 1990’s in international waters alone. Shark species most at risk for bycatch include dusky sharks and scalloped hammerheads. It is estimated that dusky shark populations off the Atlantic coast declined by 85 percent. In addition, scalloped hammerheads are extremely susceptible to fishing mortality due to their uniquely shaped and sensitive bodies. Lastly, longlines — made up of a mainline and hooks suspended in the water for several miles — catch sharks instead of the intended target at least 20 percent of the time, though it could be as high as 50 percent in Atlantic and Hawaiian fisheries.
- The Solution: Oceana works to promote the count, cap, control approach to bycatch: count all catch (including bycatch), cap bycatch by using science-based limits, and control bycatch through management measures designed to ensure bycatch limits are not exceeded and that overall bycatch is reduced over time. Additionally, better bycatch reporting procedures, incentive programs and cleaner gear can all help to minimize bycatch aboard fishing boats.
Illegal Fishing is Still a Thing
- Illegal Fishing: It was discovered through a 2013 Oceana report that up to 24 countries may be catching sharks within the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea without reporting such catches, which is required by the Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). As a result, most shark species caught within ICCAT fisheries remain poorly managed, if at all. Only very few sharks, out of a total 465 species, have international protective regulations in place, and highly threatened species continue to be landed and sold. Commercially-caught species like mako and blue sharks are fished without any limits. Thus, the IUCN has listed the mako as Vulnerable in the Atlantic Ocean and Critically Endangered in the Mediterranean Sea, while blue sharks are Near Threatened globally, according to the 2013 Oceana report.
- The Solution: To combat the problem, it is vital that countries and fishing entities fulfill their requirements to record data on shark catches, discards and fishing effort. Oceana calls upon ICCAT to establish precautionary catch limits for blue sharks in particular, as blue shark captures have increased substantially.
Demand for Shark Fins
- Shark Fin Demand: The international fin trade is one of the greatest threats to shark species. Shark fin soup has been a traditional Chinese delicacy for thousands of years, often served to signal wealth and honor. However, shark finning is a wasteful and harmful practice in which only two to five percent of the shark is even used — once a shark’s fins are cut off at sea, the shark is tossed back into the water to drown. Researchers found that 73 million sharks would have to be killed each year to match the volume of fins that are traded in the global market —a whopping 1 to 2 million tons.
- The Solution: Though illegal in many parts of the world, shark finning still happens. It happens where there are either no such regulations or where regulations are poorly enforced. Shark fin trade bans help to eliminate the market for shark fins by banning the sale, possession, trade and distribution of the fins. Oceana has campaigned for individual U.S. states to take a stand against the import and export of fins across their borders. Oceana also works internationally to protect sharks in European Union waters, as well as in Brazil. Fortunately, several milestones have been achieved within the last five years toward reducing shark finning.
Become Educated, Go Shark Cage Diving
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