Local Solutions to Global Overfishing Problems
Nevertheless, Sharks are deemed as one of the predators of the sea. Perhaps their existence graduated to another or greater level of terror from the American thriller movie, Jaws. Every effect of the movie, especially the dramatic soundtrack, elevated the tension among the audience, kept them on the edge of their seats and their eyes glued to the screens, not knowing when the predator would pop and lunge its attack. But are Sharks truly what they project them to be in the movies?
Surely they are one of the alphas of the ocean. However, their kill count is not even an inch closer than that of mosquitoes. According to Statista’s report, the mosquito is the deadliest creature causing one million human deaths annually, and then comes the 100,000 deaths from snakes and 250 from lions. The report also indicates that Dogs are the third deadliest animal causing 30,000 human deaths per year. Whereas, the chances of getting bitten by a Shark are only one in 3,748,067 according to Petpedia. Apparently, death by selfie happnes to be more common than a Shark attack.
Vulnerable Hunting the Armed
Oftentimes, Sharks are believed to not deliberately attack people to eat them. Rather, they bite to fend themselves when they feel threatened or simply does a test bite to check whether humans are edible or not. Sharks can’t necessarily say the same for humans, since the latter happens to be more of the killer than the former. While humans may fear Sharks for capability of threatening the former’s survival chances, but truly it is the Shark that has every reason to fear humans, than humans do for Sharks. Mainly due to the vibrant cuisine that humans have, Sharks are massively hunted for their flesh, with their fins in particular that make for exquisite Shark Fin soup. Regardless of whether the dish is nutritious, it is esteemed as a luxury dish embodying notions of status, hospitality and good fortune.
The sad reality lies how humans cut off Sharks’ fins and throw them back in the ocean, limiting the creature’s survival ability and leaving them vulnerable to other predators.
Saving the Shark or the Small-Scale Fisheries?
Over the years, Shark trade has resulted in overfishing, causing fatality to millions of sharks every year.
Overfishing is believed to happen at both small-scale inshore fishing to large-scale industrial fishing. Hunting Sharks as a mere bycatch is myth today since these creatures are intentionally hunted, not only for their fins, but their meat as well. Recently, Shark meat and liver oil have increased in value. Most domestic or local markets that sell Shark meat are not covered by regulations. While the same, stringent rules to protect sharks in these markets could take a toll on the livelihood of small-scale fisheries which depend on the creature for income generation and food. Therefore, there are on-going talks about reducing the trade of threatened shark species, without hampering the rights and welfare of small-scale fisheries.
Sharks and Ray species are hunted to the point that the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services are concerned about their species becoming extinct.
Why Sharks Are Crucial for Marine Life
Sharks may hunt for their living and are a threat to other sea creatures; however, they also help marine life to thrive in the ocean. Their role is also shaping the ecosystem of the ocean. For instance, the phytoplankton, the base for aquatic food webs, who provide food for a wide variety of sea creatures, are surviving thanks to Sharks. The phytoplankton receive their food by absorbing the nutrients floating in the surface of the water that receives most of the sunlight. However, the upper surface of the oceans is lacking in nutrients and that’s where Sharks come in with their supply of nutrients. The supply occurs through excretion. The Sharks, Rays and other mammals like Whales plunge into deep waters to have their meal. Once they have had their fill, they swim to the ocean’s surface for excretion. Their stools contain essential nutrients which contribute to the productivity of shallow waters.
Additionally, Sharks happen to mix different layers of the ocean, by acquiring nutrient rich waters from the depths and delivering them to the surface of the oceans, which helps in the oxygenation and expansion of the most productive top layer.
After that, it’s up to the Turtles and Dugongs, sea cows, to feed on the nutrients through the sea grass, which helps isolate carbon more than what rainforests do. This is until the Tiger Sharks arrive. Therefore, the Turtles and other sea creatures graze upon as much as they could, and leave before predators arrive. In fact, the entry of predators helps preventing over consumption of sea grass and carbon storage.
On the bright side, more people and organizations are voicing their concerns to reduce overfishing of Sharks. Here are some developments taking place.
Initiatives to Save Sharks
Many measures revolve around improving marine management. The answer can include initiatives to motivate the fishing sector to take action. The popularity of shark and ray tourism, which involves taking trips to see charismatic animals like great white sharks, hammerhead sharks, and manta rays in their natural habitat, has the potential to strengthen regional economies and open up new employment options for people like fishermen. Countries decided to conserve 54 shark species, including tiger sharks and small hammerheads, in a vote in November 2022. These sharks are used to produce shark fin soup. Conservationists hailed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora decision as a major victory.
Now technology is also being employed towards Shark rescue missions.
Rescuing Sharks Go Technical
Conservationists from California are sending Drones to patrol popular fishing sites scanning the seas looking for Sharks who could pose a threat to human beings. An accurate identification is provided by AI scanning the drone footage. The device can alert surfers to the presence of sharks and protect the sharks from the often fatal effects of a human interaction. The project is a component of the World Economic Forum's Uplink program, which brings together entrepreneurs, experts, and investors in search of solutions that can be scaled up to assist in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. Goal 14 aims to safeguard marine life and maintain the wellbeing of ocean ecosystems.
Then there is a new gadget called SharkGuard that helps reduce byctach. Developed by marine scientists, the device is powered through batteries and is clipped onto fishing lines to emit short pulse that repels Sharks.