The shark as a terrifying creature is so ingrained in our minds that just hearing that creepy “Jaws” theme is enough to send chills down our spines. However, with their numbers dwindling — thanks in large part to human actions — the scarier reality is that sharks are disappearing.
The number of sharks listed as endangered is staggering and includes 201 species, including the infamous Great White, on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of plants and animals that risk extinction.
Why are sharks endangered?
Like many endangered species, humans pose the biggest threat to shark survival. Shark-finning, the practice by which sharks are caught, have their fins cut off and then discarded, has led to the deaths of at least 100 million sharks per year. Despite its devastating impact on the shark population, shark fin soup remains a popular delicacy in some cultures.
However, it is not only the direct hunting of sharks that puts them at risk; commercial fishing for such species as tuna and billfish has led to the unintentional capture of sharks in bycatch.
And like many other species, climate change, pollution and the destruction of their habitats have put many sharks on the brink of extinction.
Why save the sharks
While Hollywood may have you believing otherwise, a good shark is not a dead shark. Known as apex predators, sharks, much like lions and tigers on land, are at the top of the food chain. Feeding on the sick and weak, sharks help keep the gene pools of other species strong, ensuring the survival of all ocean creatures. If sharks’ numbers were to decline significantly, it could devastate the health of the ocean food chains, including the ones humans rely on for food.
These days, sharks are finally starting to get the attention they deserve. Programs like the wildly popular “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel and the documentary film “Sharkwater” are doing wonders to educate the public on the importance of shark preservation and showing that these are creatures to be revered not feared.
For more about sharks, check out our list of myths and facts to sink your teeth into.