This post written by the author, Matt Weiss of Please Be Nice To Sharks gives us a little more insight on how we can help with the conservation of sharks, and protect them from becoming extinct.
While scientists haven't determined an exact measurement of how quickly sharks are disappearing, they are almost all in agreement that shark populations have been drastically reduced over the past few decades. There are many factors involved, but overfishing and pollution are two serious issues affecting shark conservation. If you want to be nice to sharks, helping reduce the effects of these environmental issues is a great place to start.
How To Help Sharks – Overfishing
Sharks, for the most part, are not considered to taste good. You'd be hard pressed to find a top chef yearning for the flavours of shark meat. Due to this, many find it surprising that sharks are overfished. However, there is one part of the shark that is considered a delicacy, despite, by almost all accounts, it not having any flavour – the fin. Shark fin soup is an expensive dish served largely at ceremonies and important functions in parts of China and at some Chinese food restaurants. Some scientists estimate that a staggering 79 million sharks a year are fished for shark fin soup. Recently, more people have become aware of damaging the demand for shark fins has been to shark populations, and there are some laws that outlaw "finning," but shark fin soup remains the biggest threat to shark survival.
Another reason shark populations are decreasing is that sharks are often caught accidentally, as what it is referred to as by-catch. Large fishing vessels that are targeting certain open ocean species, like tuna, will cast lines or nets that are miles long. This gear is not only really good at catching the desired species, but also lots of other animals, including sharks, turtles, dolphins, and seabirds. These unwanted species are usually discarded overboard and if they are not already dead, they are left to die a fairly inhumane death.
It's easy to see why the most important way you can help sharks is by eating sustainably. It goes without saying that you should never eat shark, but also be conscious about all seafood you're eating. If you're concerned about sharks, take a look at seafood guides like the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Seafood Watch" and educate your family about the importance of eating sustainably. Overfishing is one of the biggest threats to sharks, and will be an even more important issue for the next generation.
How To Help Sharks – Pollution
Pollution is a real threat to the ocean, and therefore, a threat to sharks. All over the world, lots of human waste ends up in the ocean. Unfortunately, we treat the ocean like a big dumping ground. A major problem is industrial run-off - untreated sewage, fertilizer from farms, oil spills from boats, and all types of harmful chemicals - but household garbage is a major issue as well. Large parts of the ocean are covered in trash, and there is perhaps no worse offender than plastics. Plastics decompose very slowly, so when plastic products wind up in the ocean, they will be there for a very long time. What's worse is that many plastic items look a lot like food to some sea animals, such as sea turtles (a major food source of sharks), and are often found inside the body of these animals restricting breathing passages. A particularly disturbing fact is that there's a large garbage "patch" referred to as "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch" floating in the Pacific Oceans that is reported to be anywhere from the size of Texas to as a big as twice the size of the continental United States! It's safe to say plastics are a real ocean problem. Want to be nice to sharks? Help cut down on pollution, but making sure you dispose of your garbage properly, and cut down on your plastic use. One easy way to minimize plastic consumption is to bring a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store, rather than getting plastic bags.
I hope Please Be Nice To Sharks will help you feel a little more sympathetic to sharks and that you'll help these beautiful animals by eating sustainably and doing your part to keep the ocean clean.
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