Written By: Emily HauckWhy we should be worried about the decline in shark populations?Because without sharks in our oceans the entire marine ecosystem would collapse!Do I have your attention? Good! A lot of people are terrified of running into these misunderstood creatures while snorkeling or diving in tropical waters but the truth is- we need them. Sharks help maintain a healthy equilibrium in a way that the average fish cannot. You may not realize that sharks help benefit the economy, local restaurant menus, and vivacious coral reefs. Let me explain…Sitting atop the ocean’s food chain for over 450 million years, sharks are known to prey on old, sick, or slow fish which helps to keep the populations healthy. Predatory sharks can prevent the spread of diseases and strengthen the gene pools of prey. They keep balance with competitors, ensuring diversity between species. By grooming some marine life populations, sharks can ensure some species do not become too populous, and eventually, a threat to others. They have a colossal effect on natural selection in the ocean realm. As an indicator (or keystone) species, removing sharks could cause the complete food chain to breakdown. Scientists study them as an indication of the health and well being of a geographic area. Because of a shark’s intimidating presence, many other marine species’ grazing behavior is influenced, which in turn, helps sustain reef health. For example, scientists found that tiger sharks were positively impacting the sea grass beds in Hawaii, and not just because of their diet. Sea turtles eat sea grasses and tiger sharks eat sea turtles. Turtles spent a lot of time grazing in a single area when tiger sharks were not present, causing that area to be destroyed. The sea turtles tended to graze over broader areas when the tiger sharks were in the vicinity, which lowered the overgrazing and destruction in a specific region. Multiple studies have shown that a decline in shark species are linked to a loss in commercially important fish and shellfish species, such as tuna, quahog (the main ingredient in clam chowder) and bay scallops. Parrot fish, cow-nose rays, groupers, and coral are all being impacted, whether directly or indirectly by the global depletion of sharks. The Bahamas, Belize, and other parts of the world rely on shark species for ecotourism. According to the OCEANA website, “a single living shark is worth $250,000 as a result of dive tourism versus a one-time value of $50 when caught by a fisherman. One whale shark in Belize can bring in $2 million over its lifetime.”SAD (but true) FACTS:
The oceans cover 2/3 of the Earth, provide 1/3 of the world’s food, help remove greenhouse gases, control our planet’s weather, and produce more oxygen than rain forests. The regulation and maintenance of the underwater equilibrium is key for humans’ survival on this planet.
Ninety percent of the world’s sharks are wiped out, with nearly 100 million sharks dying every year, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. (The math comes out to- 10,000 sharks killed every hour by humans.)
Sharks are slow to mature and many shark species will have a very difficult time recovering to their population size because of the small number of pups born each year.
"If there is one message we are trying to get across here is it that, if we can’t save the whales, and the sharks, the turtles, the fish, the great white's and tiger sharks, we are not going to save the oceans. And if the oceans die, we die; we can’t live on this planet with a dead ocean."- Captain Paul Watson