We are emptying the ocean of sharks. As a diver and a global citizen acting locally, you can play a critical role in saving sharks. Here’s why your actions to protect sharks are so important:
Nearly one out of five shark species is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as Threatened with extinction. That doesn’t even include hundreds of species (almost half of all sharks) whose population status cannot be assessed because of lack of information. Scientists warn that, in actuality, a third of sharks might already be threatened.
Why do we worry about shark populations? A healthy and abundant ocean depends on predators like sharks keeping ecosystems balanced. And living sharks fuel local economies in places like Palau where sharks bring in an estimated $18 million per year through dive tourism.
They may rule the ocean, but sharks are vulnerable. They grow slowly, produce few young, and, as such, are exceptionally susceptible to overexploitation.
Overfishing is driving sharks to the brink - with many populations down by 80 percent. Tens of millions are killed each year for their meat, fins, liver, and other products.
Bycatch– or catching sharks incidentally while fishing for other commercial species – poses a significant threat to sharks. At the same time, new markets for shark products are blurring the line between targeted and accidental catches.
Finning– Shark fins usually fetch a much higher price than shark meat, providing an economic incentive for the wasteful and indefensible practice of “finning” (removing shark fins and discarding the often still alive shark at sea). Finning is often associated with shark overfishing, especially as keeping only the fins allows fishermen to kill many more sharks in a trip than if they were required to bring back the entire animal.
Shark fishing continues largely unregulated in most of the world’s ocean. Finning bans, such as the European Union’s (EU) finning regulations, are fraught with loopholes. Trade in only three species of sharks – basking, great white and whale - are regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The future of sharks hinges on holding shark fishing and trade to sustainable levels. The best way to ensure an end to finning is to require that sharks are landed with their fins still “naturally” attached. Fishing limits must be guided by science and reflect a precautionary approach. We must also invest in shark research and catch reporting, and protect vital shark habitats. And last, but most definitely not least, you can help by thinking twice before buying shark products. As with any seafood or fish products, if you choose to eat seafood, you should refrain from a purchase unless you can be certain that it's coming from a sustainable source.
Thankfully, divers are some of sharks’ closest and most influential allies. Together, we can create a powerful, collective voice to lead global grassroots change. We can start by seizing upcoming opportunities by demanding a stronger EU finning ban and safeguards for highly traded shark species under CITES.
Join us in taking action.