Recent estimates suggest that around 100 million sharks are taken each year for their fins and meat; many species have suffered severe declines due to unregulated fishing.
Although you may have heard about “finning” - the removal of fins from live sharks, with the sharks then being discarded at sea to die - you might be surprised that shark fishermen in most nations use the whole shark: fins, skins, cartilage, jaws, meat and all. The real problem is that without careful controls on how many are taken, this can exceed the ability of many shark species to replenish fished populations.
One-quarter of sharks and their relatives are threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Loss of these predators threatens the food security of nations that rely on fish for human consumption and threatens the dive tourism industry that relies on sharks as living attractions.
Their absence can also disrupt the balance of marine food webs, causing large-scale habitat changes.
The next phase of our research seeks to improve our understanding of how sharks influence other reef animals and how the loss of sharks could disrupt the balance of coral reefs - the ‘rainforests of the sea’ - all over the world.