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Sharks have inhabited our oceans for over 400 hundred million years and survived five mass extinctions, demonstrating perfect adaption to their environment. They occupy almost every marine ecosystem on earth with some even able to survive in freshwater!
ALL SHAPES & SIZES
The world of sharks is amazingly diverse. From tiny Pygmy Lantern Sharks with their glowing bellies, to impressive filter-feeding Whale Sharks that can grow up to 17m long, Epaulette Sharks that use their fins to walk over coral reefs and bizarre looking Tasselled Wobbegongs that use camouflage to hide from their prey.
Worldwide there are over 500 species of shark, 600 skates and rays and 40 chimaera. Without sharks, marine eco-systems face an uncertain future, which is why safeguarding the future of these species is vital.
WHY ARE SHARKS IMPORTANT?
Despite being perfectly adapted to their environment sharks, are now among the most endangered species on the planet largely due to human activities such as overfishing, bycatch, shark finning and habitat destruction. As apex predators sharks, just like wolves and lions on land, fulfil a key role in maintaining the balance of the ocean by keeping other populations in check. As they prey on the weakest species (such as the sick and old), they also prevent the spread of disease and improve the gene pool, helping to create healthy ecosystems. Unfortunately their life history strategy of slow growth, late maturity and few offspring makes them extremely vulnerable to exploitation.
SHARKS IN DANGER!
Recent assessments by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group ranked sharks of the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea with the worst conservation status of all assessed regions. 30% of EU and 50% of the UK’s sharks are listed as threatened with some reported to have declined by 99%. Populations continue to decline under the intense pressure of unmanaged modern fisheries practices, driven by global consumer demand for shark based products.
HOW CAN YOU HELP
There are a number of ways you can help, from getting involved in our projects, becoming a member or adding your voice to one of our campaigns - find out more by visiting our Get Involved page.