The shark is still considered as a bloodthirsty monster by the general public, involuntarily getting the leading role in countless horror movies. This fact and other prejudices make it hard to believe, that scientists and animal rights activists have come to the conclusion that sharks are in an urgent need for protection. But what is the reason for that? Why do we have to protect sharks, when there are dozens of other species which are also badly off? The answer to this question is simple but all the more important.
Sharks have been roaming our oceans for over 400 million years. They have survived ice ages and the dinosaurs. Moreover, they have managed to adapt perfectly to their respective living conditions. From the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical waters of the equator – sharks are living in every ocean of the world. Their species can be found in reefs, in the high sea and even in the eternal darkness of the deep sea. From powerful predators to harmless plankton eaters, each of the 530 known shark species is deeply rooted in the marine habitat.
As generally known, the entire marine life is interlinked in the food chain. And that’s exactly where the maintask of the shark kicks in. In their role as top predator each individual shark contributes to ensure a balanced marine ecosystem. To achieve this goal, each shark species catches prey that is tailored to it. The “Shortfin Mako Shark” for example, is capable of catching tuna, mackerel and even swordfish at a top speed of up to 80 km/h, while the “TigerShark” is specialized in cracking turtle shells.
This target-oriented hunting behavior of each shark species has the goal to ensure that their prey does not reproduce uncontrolled. In turn, sharks are being controlled by their food base. In addition, sharks regulate themselves, as well. Sometimes adult sharks eat even younger sharks of a different species.
If sharks are missing in the food chain, smaller predatory fish spread rapidly. These predators in turn, decimate other animal species to an above-average extent and overgraze the entire ecosystem. That means if the shark is missing in the food chain, the food chain will collapse from top to bottom over time. Therefore it is not without a reason that sharks are an important indicator of a healthy marine ecosystem in science.
To illustrate the consequences of missing top predators, let’s take a look at another biotope: If the top predators of the African steppe are missing, the herbivores multiply faster than average and eat up all the green in no time.Very quickly, all the herbivores which are no longer controlled by the top predators have eaten everything edible and must starve due to lack of food.
Back to the marine ecosystem, we have to realize that a breakdown of the marine food chains would have catastrophic consequences. For the sea anyway, but for mankind, too. Everybody knows that the rainforest produces a lot of the atmosphere’s oxygen. What most people are not aware of: it is the ocean who is the most important oxygen producer on earth. The five major oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Antarctic Ocean) cover jointly about 71% of the earth’s surface. The phytoplankton which lives there produces over 60% of the world’s oxygen and absorbs most of the CO2 from the atmosphere, as well. The life we know would not be possible without this cycle.
But despite this knowledge, we humans are in a real war against sharks. As a by-catch or target fish, sharks are being pulled out of the water with longlines, trawls or drift nets. They are being caught mostly because of their fins and further to use their liver or their cheap (but mostly toxic) meat. Every year, up to 273 million sharks die. That is about eight sharks per second. If we go on like that, the shark will extinct first but the humans will follow soon.
There is only one solution to save the sharks and us from this fate: We must stop killing sharks immediately!
If we want to give the sharks and also us humans a chance to survive, the cruel killing of the sharks must end immediately!
Do your part and be an ocean hero. In less than 60 seconds, you can sign the Initiative and become an important part in stopping the senseless slaughter of up to 273 million sharks a year. (Through a transport ban of non-attached fins in the EU)