Despite our innate fear of sharks, they have far more to fear from us, than we of them. On average two or three people die from shark encounters each year. Scientists estimate that as many as one hundered million sharks may die each year as a result of interactions with us: targeted by shark fishermen for their fins, accidentally caught and killed by other fisheries, and by sport fishermen or trophy hunters.
One hundred million sharks per year equates to three sharks dying every second of every day. Sharks are slow to grow, slow to reach sexual maturity and produce few offspring. How can they keep up with this hunt? The answer quite simply is, they cannot.
A new report published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) finds that many more sharks are now considered to be at risk of extinction. New to the list is a shark close to our hearts at the Monterey Bay Aquarium - the scalloped hammerhead. You can find this graceful shark, a visitor favorite, in our Outer Bay waters exhibit.
This shark species (and eight others) will be added to the IUCN's red list in 2008. The scalloped hammerhead population is estimated to have declined by a staggering 99% and will be listed as "globally endangered" due to overfishing and the high demand for shark fins. 126 other sharks are already listed as threatened by these factors.
What can I do to help?
· Follow the recommendations of the Seafood Watch regional pocket guides to find the best choices for healthy oceans.
· Avoid eating shark and shark fin soup.
· Avoid products containing shark liver oil and shark cartilage. Look for shark-free alternatives, such as chondroitin from bovine sources.
· Avoid buying shark souvenirs such as teeth and jaws, unless they are replicas or fossils.
· Support legislation that prevents overfishing and encourages fisheries managers to consider whole ecosystems, rather than focusing exclusively on fish “stocks”.