Sharks Are Not as Big and Scary as You Think
Get ready to be awestruck as we debunk the terrifying myths about sharks! While horror stories have painted them as giant man-eating monsters, the truth is far from what you’ve seen on the silver screen.
Most sharks are not dangerous to humans as people are not part of their natural diet. These captivating creatures also come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from the tiny 8-inch-long deepwater dogfish to the massive 40-foot-long whale shark – but regardless of their size, they are amazing animals that deserve our respect.
There are more than 400 different species of sharks. While most prefer saltwater environments, a few species have adapted to freshwater habitats. Some sharks, such as the Bull Sharks, have displayed a remarkable ability to thrive in both saltwater and freshwater bodies, traversing the boundaries between these two distinct worlds.
Shark Finning – From Predator to Prey
Sharks have long been one of the most feared hunters in the ocean. Yet today, sharks face a rapid decline on a global scale, as humans have taken their place as the ocean’s top predators. One particularly devastating practice contributing to this decline is shark finning, a process where a shark’s fin is sliced off while the rest of its still-living body is discarded, often by being dumped back into the ocean.
Shark fins are targeted by fishermen due to their high monetary and cultural value. The catches are predominantly sent to Asia, where shark fin soup is considered a delicacy, with a single bowl costing over $200.
Which Sharks Are Targeted for Their Fins?
Some shark species hold a higher value than others. Pelagic species such as Oceanic White Tip Sharks and Silky Sharks are targeted for their highly prized fins in the global shark trade. The large fins of Whale Sharks and Basking Sharks are coveted as decorative items in restaurants. These species, tragically, rank among the most threatened.
Why are Sharks Being Pushed to the Brink of Extinction?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List criteria, one-third of the world’s chondrichthyan fishes – sharks, rays, and chimaeras – are now threatened with extinction.
Chondrichthyan fishes are especially vulnerable to overfishing because they tend to take a longer time to reach maturity and produce fewer offspring compared to other fish species. Overfishing has therefore far outpaced effective resource management for these creatures. On top of that, governments have fallen short in prioritizing chondrichthyan protection and fulfilling commitments under international treaties, most notably the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Although CITES is a global agreement among governments to regulate or ban international trade of species under threat, its designation lacks the power of law, and enforcement is left to individual member countries. Unfortunately, countries actively involved in the shark fin trade often disregard the CITES designation. Urgent conservation action is needed to prevent population collapses and the eventual extinction of these species.
Protecting Shark Populations
Sharks play vital roles as predators in marine food webs, transferring nutrients from the surrounding ocean to coral reefs, as well as from surface waters to the deep sea. Depletion of their populations not only threatens their existence and disrupts the ocean’s balance but also jeopardizes sustainable fishing, tourism, and food security.
Regulations on shark finning alone are insufficient to reverse the declining trends. Conservation efforts are desperately needed to recover shark populations, such as temporarily excluding fishing activity from areas with high densities of sharks during the breeding season, thus improving the chances for recovery.
With shark populations rapidly declining and approaching the point of no return, immediate action must be taken to protect them and their habitats. At Asia Wild, we are committed to supporting such conservation efforts. We provide grants to small local organizations that make a significant impact on conservation and animal welfare. Our aim is to create a world where all animals can thrive in their natural habitats, free from harm and exploitation.
Join us in securing a future for Asian wildlife by making a donation today. Together, we can make a difference.