100 Million Sharks Are Killed Every Year, Says New Study

By Staff Reporter on March 4, 2013 4:38 AM EST

Shark
100 Million Sharks Killed Every Year, Says New Study (Photo: Flickr.com/byte)

A new study has found that the population of world's sharks is rapidly declining with as many as 100 million being killed every year. 

A team of international scientists calculated the total shark mortality based on available data of shark catches and calculated projections for unreported, discarded and illegal catches. Shark deaths were estimated at 100 million in 2000, whereas it was 97 million in 2010. The total possible range of mortality is between 63 and 273 million annually. The details of the findings are published in the journal Marine Policy.

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Researchers attribute the decline in shark population to a number of factors including global boom in shark fishing and the relatively slow growth and reproductive rates of sharks. Sharks are fished for their meat and fins, which are used in shark fin soup - a popular delicacy in East Asia. Based on their analysis, researchers estimated that about one in 15 sharks gets killed by fisheries every year.

This is a big concern because the sharks help in balancing the ecosystem in the world's oceans. "In working with tiger sharks, we've seen that if we don't have enough of these predators around, it causes cascading changes in the ecosystem, that trickle all the way down to marine plants," study co-author Mike Heithaus, a biologist from Florida International University, said in a statement.

With the increase in demand for their fins, these marine mammals have become more vulnerable than ever before. Several countries including Canada, the U.S. and the European Union have tried to restrict shark finning with their anti-finning legislation, but the bans have not stopped the problem.

Researchers insist that more nations should enforce better protective measures to avoid depletion in shark population. They suggest that imposing a tax on the export and import of shark fins could help in curbing the demand for shark fins as well as generate more income for domestic shark fisheries management.

"In addition, more nations must invest in sustainable shark fisheries management. This means introducing catch limits, trade regulation and other protective measures for the most vulnerable species and those that move across international boundaries," said Samuel Gruber of the University of Miami.

The report has come at a time when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is holding its conference in Bangkok, Thailand from March 3 to March 14.

Some 2,000 delegates from over 150 countries are attending the conference to discuss integrated strategies to halt poaching and illegal trafficking of wild animals and combat destruction of forests and marine ecosystems caused by excessive logging and overfishing.

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