One-third of shark species face extinction
A recent report by the Shark Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on 64 species of pelagic (open water) sharks has revealed that a third of them, including the great white and hammerhead, are at risk of extinction due to overfishing.
The results come just days before an international conference on high-seas tuna fisheries to aid shark conservation. Shark meat is popular in Asia where it is prized for the apparent health benefits that fins offer and “finning” or the abandoning of shark carcasses in the sea after removing their fins, though banned in international waters, is a common practice. Another threat is by-catching which accounts for a large proportion of shark deaths each year.
In the past, the blue and mako shark populations have been severely impacted by this. For example, the Spanish fleets of so-called surface long-line fishing boats are meant to catch swordfish, but 70 per cent of their catch, by weight, from 2000 to 2004 were pelagic sharks.
According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an alarming 100 million sharks are caught each year and shark populations have declined by more than 80 per cent in the past decade. This is particularly worrying as sharks have a slow reproductive and maturity rate. Conservationists are calling for stricter protection measures to curb overfishing.