Every year we celebrate Shark Week and we are reminded that we need to take action to protect these magnificent creatures now – before we lose them forever.
That would be a devastating loss for our planet, not only because of the majesty of the sharks themselves but because they are an essential part of the ocean ecosystems that ultimately support us all. Where I live, in the Caribbean, we know that healthy coral reefs need sharks – their apex predator – to survive. Fewer sharks means less healthy coral and less fish, and that threatens food security, tourism, and the ability of reefs to buffer the impacts of major storm events and help make our coastal areas more resilient to change. We depend on sharks in more ways than many people realise.
But, sadly, we also hunt them in staggering numbers. Sharks may have sharper teeth, but there is no doubt that we are the more frightening species. Every year more than 100 million sharks are killed around the world, to be turned into bowls of soup, lipstick, gel caps or petfood. By catch and the gruesome practice of finning and then throwing the rest of the shark overboard dead or dying are two major threats to the survival of these iconic ocean predators. Tragically, the consequences of our actions have led to 11 species of shark being critically endangered, 15 endangered, and 48 in a vulnerable state, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. That means about 30% of shark species are threatened or nearly threatened with extinction. For shark-lovers like me, and many millions of people around the world, this is unacceptable.
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