Sharks, the top predators of the sea, are rapidly disappearing from our oceans. These denizens of the deep, shallow, fresh, salt -- well, pretty much all waters -- are in danger. They are caught for their fins and as bycatch, and their habitat is being destroyed. These big fish are absolutely crucial to the health of the oceans.
Many of these species (specifically those that are critically endangered), have few pups at a time, and their pregnancies may last up to 2 years or more. Also, many are long-lived and do not become sexually mature until later in life. This all leads to slow population growth and makes them susceptible to declines. Also, once their population is driven to low numbers, it takes a long time for their population to recover to sufficient numbers.
You can help by asking your senator to support the Shark Conservation Act of 2009 (S. 850), which aims to end shark finning once and for all. The act would require sharks be landed with their fins attached, thus providing a true shark finning ban as was originally intended. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting action in the Senate.
The following is a rundown of all the critically endangered species of sharks according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
Redtailed Black Shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor) is extinct in the wild although they are still raised in captivity. Their demise may be linked to dam construction in the 70’s and habitat loss.
Pondicherry Shark (Carcharhinus hemiodon) was last seen in 1979 in India, and the species may now be extinct!
Harrison's Deepsea Dogfish (Centrophorus harrissoni) has seen a 99% population decrease from 1977 to 1997. This long-lived species is heavily trawled, and they only have 1 to 2 pups every 1 to 2 years, which makes it hard to repopulate.
Ganges Shark (Glyphis gangeticus) is a freshwater species that inhabits areas heavily impacted by human activities. Most of our information on this shark comes from 3 museum specimens!
Bizant River Shark (Glyphis sp. nov. A) and New Guinea River Shark (Glyphis sp. nov. C) are thought to have only 250 mature adults left.
Daggernose Shark (Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus) have had population declines of 18.4% a year, with one study documenting a greater than 90% decline in their population over the last 10 years.
Sawback Angelshark (Squatina aculeate), Smoothback Angel Shark (Squatina oculata), and Angel Shark(Squatina squatina) used to be common in their range along the coast of the Mediterranean sea and eastern Atlantic but are now completely gone from some regions and very uncommon in others. The Sawback Angelshark or the Smoothback Angel Shark have not been recorded in fisheries catches since 2002.
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