A post from my old website, 21 September 2010…
I’ve always been a shark lover myself, but the mere sight of one of their fins poking out of the water, I realise, may spark sheer terror to some who grew up with the iconic movie Jaws. But is that any reason to stand back while they get slaughtered in their millions just so their fins can be used for soup of all things? I don’t think so and I hope you don’t either, even if these magnificent kings of the ocean scare the hell out of you.
Sharks may well be the ocean’s top predator, but they are sadly being hunted to the point of extinction and all to become a ‘tasty’ morsel in soup bowls around Asia. Putting the morality of such a practice to one side (difficult as that is), the fact is it poses a serious threat to the health of our entire ocean ecosystem, as the presidents of Honduras and Palau have warned world leaders at the UN General Assembly today.
A staggering 73 million sharks are killed every year to support the shark fin trade, “a globally unregulated trade that is not sustainable”, pointed out President Johnson Toribiong of the Republic of Palau and President Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the Republic of Honduras.
According to the Pew Environment Group, 30% of shark species are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, and scientists lack enough data to properly assess the population status of an additional 47%.
Both Honduras and Palau have stopped all commercial shark fishing in their own waters to preserve their marine biodiversity and advance their tourism industries, while elsewhere Hawaii has banned the distribution, sale, and possession of shark fins. The EU too has a ban in place on shark finning, although loopholes in the legislation are seriously hampering its enforcement, as some members of the European Parliament made clear just recently.
For their actions, all of these rightly deserve to be applauded.
We now need more nations to follow their example. As Presidents Johnson Toribiong and Porfirio Lobo Sosa rightly warn failure to do so will throw our fragile ocean environment further out of balance.
World leaders they hope will support plans to limit global shark fishing, implement a total ban on shark finning, and help them work towards establishing a series of shark sanctuaries – where no shark fishing would be permitted at all – around the world. Their call to conserve the world’s dwindling shark populations in this way came a week after a number of shark attack survivors, from five countries, issued a similar challenge to the UN.
“Even if the movie ‘Jaws’ has scared entire generations, we absolutely cannot accept fishing practices that menace the natural balance of the ocean environment,” said Yann Perras of LeMans, France, whose leg was severed by a shark when windsurfing off the coast of Venezuela in 2003. His fellow shark attack survivors issued similar statements.
The loss of sharks, described by the Pew Environment Group as one of the apex predators in the marine environment, disrupts the food web and can cause dramatic, negative consequences.
Scientists have found a correlation between declines in shark populations and a shift from healthy, coral-dominated reefs to those that are barren, algae-dominated and dying.
For those who don’t agree with me that merely the fact they do exist and so deserve to remain in existence is enough to justify taking action, then I trust the scientific evidence of the real danger that lurks should the demise of these predators continue can persuade them instead. For as Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, says: “The time has come to take meaningful action to protect sharks. It is our hope that the members of the UN hear this call and act.”
And I have to say it is my sincere hope that they do too. The more of us that lend our voices to this call the better chance of success in the long term. So my message today is please, please, sign the online petition that has been set up and demand action now.
To find out more about the dangers facing our sharks visit www.pewtrusts.org, www.sharkalliance.org, www.projectaware.org or Iemanya Oceania, a non-profit organization, dedicated to the conservation of sharks, rays and their habitats.
To add your voice to the campaign to persuade the world’s leaders to take action to conserve sharks globally, as I have done myself today, sign the petition here.