Shark, ray population decline by 71%, species under serious risk of extinction

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reported that 33% of sharks and ray species are under the threat of extinction
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Nature, an international peer-reviewed journal, published a study on the global decline of the oceanic shark and ray population. 

According to the journal, scientists found that since 1970, the global population of oceanic sharks and rays has declined by 71%, owing to an 18 fold increase in relative fishing pressure.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reported that 33% of sharks and ray species are under the threat of extinction.

Photo: Courtesy of IUCN Red List

In 2013, Science Direct published a study,  Global Catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks, stating that many shark species are vulnerable to overfishing. The global catch and mortality of sharks from reported and unreported landings, discards and shark finning have been estimated at 1.41 million tons. According to the average shark weight analysis, this measurement equals about 97 million sharks being hunted for their fins per year. However, it also states that the possibility ranges between 63 and 273 million sharks a year. 

Why are Sharks and Rays important?

Contrary to the reputation Hollywood gave to sharks, sharks do not have humans on their diet. Only about a dozen from more than 300 species of sharks have been involved in attacks on humans.  

Sharks are opportunistic feeders and feed on smaller fish and invertebrates. Larger sharks prey on seals, sea lions and other marine mammals. In 2020, only 10 people died due to shark attacks worldwide. 

Sharks are vital because they play a crucial part in the ecosystem. Their feeding helps regulate the prey population. Also, sharks and rays contribute to carbon dioxide emissions. When a big fish like a shark or ray dies in the ocean, they sink to the depth and sequestrate all the carbon it contains with it

Shark attack statistics. (Photo: Courtesy of Florida Museum)

Shark Fin Use

According to National Ocean Service, sharks are hunted for their meat, internal organs, skin, and fins to make products such as shark fin soup, lubricant and leather. 

World Ocean Initiative describes shark fin soup as a delicacy in many parts of the Far East. According to these practices, shark fins are removed while the sharks are still alive, and their bodies are discharged back into the ocean while they die a slow death. This ensures the fisherman more space on the boat to store more fins. 

Between April and May 2020, Hong Kong Customs seized about 13 tonnes of smuggled dried shark fins, with an estimated market value of $8.6 million, at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound. 

Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Customs

Here are list of countries with a full or a partial ban on shark finning.

Asian countries are not the only ones to consume sharks. The US has banned shark fin in 12 states; however, some places still put it on the menu. The UK allows anyone to legally bring 20 kg of dried shark fins for personal consumption. Fisheries and Oceans Canada allows shark fishing tournaments each year in Nova Scotia.  

Photo: Courtesy of Paul Hilton @paulhiltonphoto/Instagram

Wiki Production Code: A0549

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