Threats to Sharks
- Sharks are apex predators (i.e. at the top of the food chain) and therefore have very few predators themselves. However, due to human interference in the ocean, shark numbers are declining and they are highly threatened. The main negative impacts that humans have on shark populations are through recreational fishing, shark finning (cutting off sharks fins and using them to make shark-fin soup. The sharks are alive when this process takes place and they are dropped back into the ocean afterwards, left to bleed out or drown), pollution, bycatch (fishing nets often accidentally trap other marine species such as sharks and dolphins) and habitat alteration and destruction due to coastal development. It is estimated that humans are responsible for up to 100 million shark deaths each year.
- Sharks grow slowly, take a long time to mature (roughly 12-15 years old) and have few offspring (ragged tooth sharks give birth to one or two pups every two to three years). These factors combined means that when a shark population declines it struggles to recover.
- 20-30 % of sharks are close to extinction. The main culprit? Commercial fisheries accidentally catching sharks on their hooks and in their nets (bycatch).
- Shark fin soup is a delicacy in China and is served at important events, like weddings and anniversaries. When dried, the fins take on a texture and shape similar to noodles. According to tradition, longer noodles mean a longer life when you eat them. Interestingly, shark fins have no taste (they are made out of keratin, the same substance as your finger nails), but the soup is flavoured using a vegetable broth.