Catch of the Week
Sharks Still Threatened Despite Important Role in Ecosystem

Sharks Still Threatened Despite Important Role in Ecosystem

Catch of the Week
Oceanic Whitetip Shark. (Photo by Peter Koelbl/Defenders of Wildlife)

Oceanic Whitetip Shark.
(Photo by Peter Koelbl/Defenders of Wildlife)

It can be easy to forget the critical role that sharks play in our ecosystem, including the fact that they are the ones who need to fear for their safety.

“Everyone loves a movie with a good villain. Unfortunately, when a type of wildlife is cast in that role, it can lead to real-world challenges. Since Jaws, and the many similar movies that have come since, sharks have developed a reputation for being mindless, killing machines that will stop at nothing to taste human flesh. It can be easy to forget the critical role that these unique creatures play in our ecosystem, and the fact that sharks are actually the ones who need to fear for their safety.”

This is how John Yeingst starts his article in the Defenders of Wildlife Blog, making the case for sharks, who play an important role in our ecosystem.

“As predators at the top of the food chain, sharks serve a critically important purpose. Just like top predators on land, sharks regulate the populations of the species they feed on, helping to keep the ecosystem balanced and able to support a wide variety of life. A drastic decline in sharks could lead to a cascading effect throughout the ocean ecosystem, from coral reefs to the fish species on which many economies depend.

Shark fins. (Photo: NOAA)

Shark fins. (Photo: NOAA)

“Though sharks have few natural predators, humans are having a major impact. The ugly truth is that up to 100 million sharks are killed each year, commonly caught for shark fin soup or as bycatch from lines that were set out for other fish. Though sharks have lived in Earth’s oceans for hundreds of millions of years, today many species are disappearing at an alarming rate. The IUCN has estimated that one-quarter of all shark, ray and chimaera species are threatened with extinction.

“Thankfully, many organizations are working to combat the threats to sharks. And although progress is certainly slow, it does seem that the very real danger of losing certain species of sharks – and the ripple effect that could have – is no longer something the world is willing to ignore.”

Our friends from the Defenders of Wildlife Blog have pinpointed a few of the hard-won achievements in just the past year. Read the rest of the story here.

“It’s clear that to secure a future for sharks, a lot of work still needs to be done,” the article says. “We’ll do our part by continuing to advocate – nationally and internationally – for stronger regulations against shark finning and more protection for these vital but vulnerable species. You can do your part by helping to dispel the myths around sharks, and by staying up to date on the latest opportunities to help advocate for sharks. Together, we can make sure these ancient animals are here to keep our oceans healthy for generations to come.”

Defenders of Wildlife, founded in 1947, is a major national conservation organization focused solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and the safeguarding of biodiversity.

John Yeingst is the Communications Coordinator at Defenders of Wildlife.

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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