Sharks- Under Threat
Sharks have roamed the oceans since before the time of dinosaurs, but their long reign at the top of the ocean food chain is imperiled. The onset of industrial fishing over the past 60 years has drastically depleted their populations. Of the shark and ray species assessed by scientists for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 30 percent are threatened or near threatened with extinction.
The sole purpose of these tournaments is for fishermen to catch the largest shark simply for bragging rights. When the tournament is over, these sharks end up in the garbage. There are over seventy shark tournaments all along east coast of the United States from Maine to Florida and the west coast as well. There is no sign of abatement for these tournaments in spite of the fact that sharks are crucial to the marine ecosystem and some species are considered threatened.
What happens to the shark at a tournament? Once the shark is hooked, it fights for its life in a contest that can take anywhere from a half to two hours to bring the shark to the boat – all the while these highly developed and sensitive animals suffer intense pain. Once alongside the boat, the shark is gaffed with a metal hook anywhere on its body to haul it into the boat. The shark’s death agony is not over yet since it is still alive and thrashing around the boat. Fishermen have to be careful with the shark at this point since it can still bite. Therefore, some will take a club and start beating the shark to death. Some will stick a knife deep into the shark’s back in an attempt to cut the spinal cord. In any case, the shark suffers – all for the meaningless cause of becoming a trophy for the fisherman.
The fishermen with his shark then heads back to the dock to weigh the shark so that it can be compared to the hundreds of other sharks that have also gone through the same treatment. Sharks can live for a couple of hours out of the water because their tissues can hold a tremendous amount of oxygen. Therefore, they can still be alive once they are brought back to the dock.
From the boat, they are hauled onto a yardarm to be weighed. At this point, the shark is cut down and then, this creature that is so crucial to the oceans, is thrown in the garbage.
Sharks need many years and in some cases well over a decade before they can breed. Therefore, these tournaments remove sharks before they have produced the next generation. Unlike bony fish that lay millions of eggs, many sharks bear only a few young so the population is at risk from these tournaments.
In addition, commercial fishing devastates shark populations. Combining losses from all fisheries, recreational and commercial, means sharks are facing the greatest threat ever to their existence. According to scientific findings in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Policy, the number of sharks killed each year in commercial fisheries is estimated at 100 million, with a range between 63 million and 273 million.
What’s the Answer?
There is an alternative. Sharks don’t have to die so that a few people can have “fun” on the weekend. There is another option, which is shark tourism where people dive with sharks. Please read our tab on shark tourism for more information.
With this simple, easy solution right at hand, there is no reason why shark tournaments that butcher sharks for no good reason should continue. Shark tournaments that kill sharks have to be stopped. Safeguard The Seas is committed to this change and to protecting the world’s oceans and wildlife.