Watch out for Berty the Basking Shark this summer, as he makes his annual trip to the UK!
Sharks in Danger
Despite surviving over 400 million years and outliving dinosaurs, many sharks are now facing extinction. Like many animals in the world, the biggest threat to their survival is humans.
Sharks have always been hunted by man but now they face even bigger problems:
Shark fins are very valuable to fishermen as they are often used to make an expensive dish called Shark Fin Soup. The fin fibres are used to give the soup a glutinous texture and then pork or chicken is added for flavour. This traditional delicacy is served to honour special occasions in many Far Eastern cultures. Shark meat is not so valuable and with limited room to store their catch fishermen may resort to shark finning – the process of cutting off a sharks fins and throwing the body back in the sea. Shark finning is banned in Europe but there are loopholes in the law that may allow this to occur. The Shark Trust is currently working to tighten these loopholes. Worldwide it is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins.
The sale of shark products from unsustainable fisheries threatens vulnerable species. Jaws are sold as collector's items and teeth can be used as jewellery and so if bought as souvenirs on holiday, can encourage unsustainable trade. Even shark cartilage is marketed as a health supplement and liver oil can be used in some cosmetics and moisturisers.
Modern fishermen have bigger and faster boats that make it easier to catch lots of fish. But when too many fish are caught the amount in the ocean is reduced and the fish are unable to reproduce quickly enough to stop this imbalance. Also, if young fish are being caught before they have had chance to reproduce, there will be even less fish in the future. This affects other animals in the food chain that rely on fish to survive, including sharks. But it’s not only smaller fish that are caught, sharks are also being overfished. Find out more by visiting the No Limits? campaign.
Marine fish and other creatures often live in the same area of the sea where fishermen catch fish, so it can be difficult for fishermen to catch only the fish they want. Species that are accidentally caught in nets or hooks meant for other fish are known as bycatch. Sharks are often bycatch. As a shark needs to keep moving in order to breathe, many suffocate before they can be released.
Animals and plants are adapted to live in habitats that provide the things they need to live and grow. When a habitat is damaged or destroyed, the dependent animals may struggle to survive, as they will have less food and shelter. Pollution is one of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans. Toxic chemicals, sewage, oil, and radioactive materials poison marine life and cause damage to the entire ecosystem. Many marine animals also die from choking on, or becoming entangled in pieces of litter. Humans are also affected by marine pollution, when we eat contaminated fish, swim in the sea or go to the beach.