Sharks are on the verge of extinction… there are unprecedented numbers of deaths among them

Over the course of more than 400 million years, sharks have survived five major mass extinctions, adapting to environmental conditions and diversifying into astonishing forms. But this ancient subspecies is now one of the world's most endangered species groups due to overexploitation in poorly regulated fisheries.

In a new study published January 11, 2024, in the journal Science, researchers revealed that despite increased preventive legislation to limit fin removal, the total rate of shark deaths during fishing operations ranges from 76 million annually. Has increased to 80 million sharks. More than 10 times during fishing operations. Same period.

More than 30% of these fisheries were conducted for species that are currently threatened with extinction. When sharks that were not properly identified by species were accounted for, the global mortality increased to 101 million sharks in 2019.

Coastal fisheries are responsible for the majority of shark deaths.
Coastal fisheries responsible for most shark deaths (Eurek Alert)

The massacre continues

“Global shark mortality rates have increased slightly, and most sharks are now caught whole, and increasing demand for shark products has driven fish to continue hunting the animals.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Net, Worm said the team reached the study's findings after three years of collecting data on shark deaths and fishing regulations.

“This was a real challenge, because shark catches are known to be under-reported,” he said. “We looked at everything from numbers of fish caught, to data from observers on boats in international waters, and even “We compiled everything we could find, down to estimates of coastal catch.” .” “Includes recreational, artistic, and even illegal fishing.”

The results show that although regulations on shark catching and fin clipping have increased tenfold, shark mortality rates have remained roughly the same over the past decade, with an estimated 76 million sharks killed by fishing in 2012 and at least 80 in 2018. Millions were killed. Because not all nets have been reported in sufficient detail, and some have not been recorded at all, researchers say the death toll is likely much higher.

shark fin
Many parts of the shark's body are used in food products such as shark fin soup, which is very popular in some countries (Shutterstock)

Regulations alone are not enough

The study's lead author points out that regulations issued by some countries to prevent shark fishing have contributed to ensuring that many fisheries can be determined at the species level, which limits fishing and trade limits. essential for. He added, “International trade is now beginning to be regulated, with more than 100 shark species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.”

But while these trade rules have helped reduce the number of sharks caught in international open fisheries, more sharks are being caught in coastal fisheries.

The study researchers attribute this to the inclusion of many shark body parts in food products, such as shark fin soup, which is very popular in some countries, and shark cartilage and shark liver oil are common ingredients in the medical and cosmetic industries.

Researchers say that to save sharks, it is clear that anti-finning laws are not enough, and there must be more comprehensive fishing regulations, and fishing of these endangered species must be banned in countries' territorial waters And should not be limited to open water. Only. The team believes that a complete ban on shark fishing through protection measures – such as shark sanctuaries – could be a successful solution.

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