Sharks are on the top of the food chain when it comes to an aquatic ecosystem. They are smart, large and menacing creatures, often feared by men, women, and fish alike. With that being said, it may be alarming to some that certain breeds are in extreme danger of disappearing from the world forever.
Why are sharks endangered? This unfortunate circumstance is mostly due to a host of human activities that harm this predator’s way of life. There are severe impactions if sharks were to be wiped away from the Earth. The entire food chain would be altered, and cause a host of negative consequences. To make matters worse, sharks mature late and produce few young, making this fight towards saving these creatures an even harder hill to climb. Let’s explore the species at risk of endangerment and the human activities that have caused this crisis in the first place. By the end of this, we should be able to figure out the answer to the question, “Why are sharks endangered?”
The Many Species Of Shark That Are Endangered
The first species of shark to be considered in danger was the grey nurse shark. Also known as the sand tiger shark or spotted ragged-tooth shark, these creatures tend to dwell around the main land masses, primarily living in subtropical and cool temperature waters. Even though they’ve been protected for more than two decades, less than 1,000 still remain today. Conservation efforts have been put into full gear in order to make sure that this number doesn’t decrease.
Whale sharks have become a vulnerable species as well, with their population at a steady decline. These sharks can be seen in Mexico, Belize, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Australia. These whale sharks live long lives (almost 70 years), mature late, and produce few offspring, making their window to provide new life very small and unlikely due to these human activities. The biggest threat to these sharks deals with the Chinese people using parts of their body for traditional medicine. Marine pollution, collision with boats and tourism activities have also contributed to this vulnerability issue.
The last species that we’ll discuss is the great hammerhead shark, which has also been listed as endangered with a decreasing population. These sharks acquired their name due to their unusually shaped head, which is flattened, forming two lobes that extend out to the side. Like their peers, these sharks are also found in tropical and temperate regions around the world, including areas around Hawaii, Colombia, and Costa Rica. Like the other sharks, the great hammerhead shark is under threat from bycatch in commercial fisheries, as well as shark finning.
How Humans Have Endangered These Aquatic Creatures
Many people ask, “Why are sharks endangered?” There are three main human activities that have attributed to this growing concern: commercial fishing, bycatch, and habitat degeneration. The biggest threat to sharks, and other fishes in general, is the overfishing and over-consumption of their meat, fins, and cartilage. As mentioned before with whale sharks, shark fins are sought out for traditional Chinese medicine. They are also used for shark fin soup, which is a delicacy in Asian countries. People also practice a hunting method known as shark finning, where the fish’s fin is cut, and the rest of the body is discarded. This shark finning is estimated to kill over 100 million sharks globally per year.
Bycatch also answers the question, “Why are sharks endangered?” Bycatch is the unintentional capture of a non-target species. In other words, tuna fishermen might reel up sharks accidentally in their nets, killing the poor creatures. Bottom dwelling fisheries are also known to reel up sharks, since a handful of their species are bottom-dwelling fish.
Lastly, humans have caused the shark’s habitat to be dramatically altered. Factors such as climate change, pollution, and the destruction of reefs have interfered with the shark’s ability to breed and hunt potential prey.
Making An Effort To Save These Sharks
So why are sharks endangered? Human interaction is the biggest reason, with overfishing, bycatch, and the destruction of their habitat being the three biggest. We need to make a better effort to save these creatures. If these species die out, our whole aquatic ecosystem will be placed in jeopardy. Let’s work together to make a positive change to our world.