Sharks are disappearing! These fascinating fish have been around for hundreds of millions of years – long before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth – but scientists have reported a drastic drop in their population in just the last generation.
If you’re thinking “how can these ferocious apex predators possibly go extinct?”, you’ve come to the right place – because we’re answering all your burning questions in this blog post. Before we get onto why, let’s get a few things straight…
Are Sharks Endangered?
The short answer is “Yes.” Sure, sharks can be scary, but they play an important role in the overall health of the oceans. While the majority of shark species have somewhat sustainable populations, a considerable number of them have been declining in numbers at alarming rates.
What Are the Most Vulnerable Shark Species?
Shark reproduction, even at its best, can’t keep pace with shark deaths. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the list of endangered shark species is surprisingly long; among approximately 470 species of sharks, 2.4% are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, 3.2% ‘Endangered’, 10.3% ‘Vulnerable’, and 14.4% ‘Near Threatened’.
Believe it or not – despite their size and ferocity – the great white shark and the whale shark are among some of the most vulnerable species.
So Why Are They Endangered?
Predators, but also prey: sharks’ troubles run deep. Sharks are endangered and a lot of factors contribute to the decrease in their populations – sadly, almost all are caused by human activities, but the good news is that these impacts can be stopped before it’s too late.
One of the threats many shark species are facing is fishing pressure from those who slaughter them only for their fins, which are used as a medicinal product in China and as a delicacy in Japan, or exported to various other countries for human consumption. Reports indicate that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year solely for this purpose – a truly shocking stat!
Why Should We Care?
Let’s be honest, sharks don’t have the best reputation among human folk! These beautiful and elegant creatures of the sea are commonly assumed to be dangerous man-eaters, and not enough people really care about their conservation; in fact, most of us are scared of them when really we should be scared for them!
The reason we fear these creatures is also why they’re so important: these apex predators sit at the top of the food chain. They keep the marine ecosystem in balance by feeding on animals that are lower in the food chain. If sharks go extinct, other predatory fish and marine animals will thrive, which will deplete the amount of fish available for food.
Not to mention that sharks are integral to the carbon cycle, and if they disappear, the carbon-loading of the atmosphere will increase, causing unimaginable damage in the form of global warming. In short, it’s absolutely crucial that we protect these species for our own sake.
What Can We Do to Help?
One of the biggest problems facing shark conservation is the misconceptions many have about these predators. So make sure you converse to conserve: simply talking to your friends about them, spreading the word on social media, and sharing the facts around can help. If you want to go the extra mile, you can buy sustainably sourced seafood to reduce the impact of bycatch, fly only with airlines that don’t transport shark fins, improve your understanding through our A-Z shark flashcards, or go to an aquarium near you to learn more about these majestic marine creatures!
We are open from 10am till 5pm every day so feel free to stop by anytime, our aquarists are always happy to share some fishy facts with you – book your tickets now and save 10%!