As Earth Month continues, we turn our attention for this post to sharks. Archeological evidence indicates that sharks have been around for more than 400 million years. There are more than 500 species of sharks, which vary in size from six inches to 39 feet long. Sharks are known as apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food chain with no known marine predators. Humans are the greatest threat to the survival of all shark species. Over the last decade, an average of 100 million sharks were killed each year.
Sharks are also threatened by climate change and plastic pollution. As ocean temperatures rise and ocean acidification intensifies, sharks will migrate further from their natural habitats. Shifting and lost habitat will impact the availability and abundance of food resources and affect their ability to successfully reproduce.
Why help sharks – As an apex predator, sharks help maintain the balance of marine populations. Without sharks, mid-level species would overconsume species at the bottom of the food chain, causing entire ecosystems to collapse. A prior collapse in the shellfish industry was caused when sharks were hunted to near extinction, causing an ecosystem chain reaction.
Outside of their food value, sharks contribute to the global economy. Shark tourism generates $314 million annually and is projected to reach $780 million annually in the next 20 years. In the Bahamas, shark tourism generates far more revenue than hunting, helping both the local economy and the preservation of shark species.
What can we do to help – Mark earth month and reduce shark hunting by joining the boycott on the the shark fin trade. Although many countries have outlawed the hunting and finning of sharks, hunting in international waters continues. The boycott on shark fin products lowers demand and drives down illegal hunting. In addition, support sustainable fishing, Buying fish from certified sustainable sources can help ensure that sharks are not threatened indirectly. Finally, help support policies and practices that reduce the causes of climate change and help end plastic pollution in our oceans.
Source: Earth Day Network, www.earthday.org