Sharks have been swimming the world’s oceans for more than 400 million years -- long before the first dinosaurs appeared on land. As top predators, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of the oceans.
But now sharks face a new threat – humans. Fishing is killing sharks faster than they can reproduce. Sharks are especially vulnerable to pressure from human activities because of their slow growth and low reproductive potential.
Many shark populations have declined to levels where they are unable to perform their roles as top predators in the ecosystem, causing drastic and possibly irreversible damage to the oceans.
Sharks in Trouble
Shark populations all over the world are plummeting.
- In recent decades, many shark populations have declined by more than 90%.
- Today, more than half of the highly migratory oceanic sharks are considered overexploited or depleted.
Greatest Threats to Sharks
The greatest threat facing sharks worldwide is fishing.
- The demand for shark fins, meat, liver oil and other products is driving numerous shark populations to the brink of extinction.
- The growing demand for shark fins in Asia often leads to shark finning, the wasteful and cruel practice of slicing off a shark’s fins while at sea and dumping the remainder of the animal into the water to die.
Threats to Sharks in the U.S.
While the U.S. has banned shark finning, it still allows for some of the most vulnerable shark species to be killed by fishermen. For example, despite being considered Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the U.S. government still allows fishermen to kill scalloped hammerhead sharks. In fact, thousands of hammerhead sharks are killed in US waters by fishing each year.
This story is not unique—tiger sharks and other at-risk shark species face the same threat. It’s time for the U.S. government to protect our ocean’s top predators by banning the killing of vulnerable shark species.