Science & Tech

Sharks being hammered by over-fishing

2 min read

Populations in rapid decline

Shark-eating humans are putting pushing this finned species to the brink of extinction, Julia Baum today warned during a presentation at the AAAS annual meeting in Boston.

A member of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group, Baum blamed the sharks’ decimation on overfishing.

Increased demand for shark fins and meat, along with recreational shark fishing have decreased the number of large shark species. Additionally, Baum said, millions of sharks are swept up as by-catch in tuna and swordfish fisheries. Shark fishing is unrestricted in international waters, she noted.

Baum said that the findings of a five-year-long research project at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University showed that all the shark species have declined by over 50 percent since the early 1970s. And the population of some species, including the tiger, bull and dusky sharks has plummet by more than 95 percent. “Our oceans are being emptied of sharks, and the scale of the problem is global,” Baum said. “The scalloped hammerhead shark, an iconic coastal species, will be listed on the 2008 IUCN Red List as globally endangered.”

Lance Morgan, a marine scientist with the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, of Bellvue, Washington, said that sharks have nowhere left to hide in an ocean subject to widespread fishing.

“Many pelagic sharks are getting snuffed out [by] longliners that target tunas and swordfish, while deep sea sharks are caught in bottom trawls and gillnets,” Morgan said “Catch limits, finning bans and a network of enforced marine reserves are all necessary conservation strategies to protect them.”