If human behaviour doesn't change, several species of shark may disappear forever

It is estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins – shark fin soup considered a delicacy can sell for up to $100 a bowl.Everything about them fascinates me – their elegance, their streamlined design perfected over millennia, their raw power – the list is endless.

So when I was given the opportunity to swim with them for the first time in March 2011, I couldn’t refuse.

That week in the Bahamas changed me forever.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to be being a bit worried about the dive, after all sharks have garnered a bad reputation due to movies like Jaws and there is always wide spread media interest in shark attacks. But after researching shark attacks I was comforted by the statistics that as a regular beachgoer, I had a one in 11.5 million chance of being attacked and a one in 264.1 million chance of being killed.

As I prepared to make my first dive, I was worried and excited in equal measure.

When in the water, what I saw was absolutely jaw dropping – sharks everywhere. Reef sharks swam about my head and lemon sharks were swimming close to the sea bed and in between all of the divers. We were even lucky enough to see some Tiger Sharks. None of the species were aggressive or territorial as we temporarily invaded their space.

It was during this trip that I found out more about the terrible plight that sharks face. It is estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins – shark fin soup, considered a delicacy, can sell for up to $100 a bowl.  If we break down the figures, over 11,000 sharks are killed every hour.

That is three a second. 

According to a 2009 study conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a third of ocean sharks are threatened with extinction in the coming decades. Sharks have been around for millions of years, and in my lifetime they could become extinct.

Fortunately, efforts are being made around the world to ensure better protection for sharks. People are slowly realising that sharks are more valuable alive than dead. But a lot of work is needed to change some deep seated traditions. 

People’s fears, ignorance and lack of interest are some of sharks’ worst enemies. Why is it that we people, feel that we have more right than any other creature to swim in the ocean?

Sharks are essential in the ocean, as an apex predator, they maintain other fish populations.

Remove them and the very ecosystem becomes off balance.

After spending a week with sharks in the Bahamas, I cannot stay quiet about the plight of sharks. They are not man hunters; they are not out there patrolling the beaches to attack swimmers. But they are in danger of disappearing fast, very fast, if we don’t change our attitudes.


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Senior Program Advisor
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