Article by Support Our Sharks (02 March 2013)
The most accurate assessment to date of the impact of commercial fishing on sharks suggests that between 63 and 273 million are being killed each year, with an average of approximately 100 million.
The researchers suggest that this rate of exploitation is far too high. “This is by far the most comprehensive estimate of shark mortality yet,” said Dr. Boris Worm (Lead author). He goes on to add, ”...because we consider all sources of mortality, from direct fishing, finning, and discard mortality. The estimate was derived by crunching numbers from almost 100 publications on the catches and mortality of sharks.”
The research has been published in the Journal Marine Policy.
Researchers admit that establishing the true level of global shark fishing is extremely difficult, as the quality of the data is poor. Many sharks that are caught have their fins removed at sea with the body dumped overboard. These sharks are often not included in official reports.
The study estimates a mortality range of between 63 and 273 million sharks in 2010, with a median estimate of 100 million.
While the number of sharks being caught has not changed substantially between 2000 and 2010, the authors of the research argue that the commercial fishing fleets are simply changing location and the shark species they target in order to keep up with demand. The fear is that eventually these shark species will crash.
Fuelling the concern is the fact that many of the species that are most threatened are very slow to reproduce.
There is a very low level of mortality that sharks can withstand before their population trend becomes negative, which is exactly what has been happening. They are not reproducing fast enough to keep up with the rate they are been pulled out of the ocean.
The biggest driver for shark fishing has been the demand for shark fin soup, a product that is seen as a luxury item among Chinese communities.
While fins are still being cut off sharks at sea, several countries including Canada, the US and the European Union have tried to restrict this by law.
The problem is that the fins are so valuable that now people are not 'finning' the sharks at sea but they are simply keeping the whole thing. But it is still dead; the finning bans have not stopped the root problem.
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