A quarter of the world’s sharks and rays are now facing an elevated risk of extinction because of over fishing due to the demand for shark fin soup, according to a new report.
For 420-million years, sharks have dominated the world’s oceans, but the new study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature shows the most successful predators in the wild are no match for humans.
Simon Fraser University’s Dr. Nick Dulvy, who co-chaired the study, said the shark fin soup industry has been detrimental not only to sharks, but also to rays, many of which have large, valuable fins.
“Twenty-eight populations of rays and shark-like rays have disappeared from the world’s oceans. We have a very real risk our grandchildren won’t see these animals in the wild,” Dulvy said.
It’s estimated that two thirds of sharks and rays die as unintended victims of by-catch, but the rest are targeted by fishermen primarily to supply the lucrative fin soup industry, according to Dulvy.
“We have guitarfish, hammerheads, some kind of reef or tiger shark here, and notice all the dorsal fins are missing. That is the first thing to go,” Dulvy said, pointing at a photo of several finless shark corpses.
Rays without dorsal fins are also at risk. Fishermen are after their meat and extremely valuable gills, which are a popular ingredient in Chinese medicine.
Dulvy said while we have the knowledge required to save these masters of the deep from extinction, governments haven’t made it a priority.
“Fisheries managers and governments are stretched thin, but we need to realize we are eating our future. Unless we fish more sustainably there will be nothing to eat tomorrow,” Dulvy said.
With files from Linda Aylesworth