Sharks teeter on edge of extinction as humans kill them to make soup, putting ocean health at risk

The world’s oceans are already under enough stress due to human activity, but now sharks are on the decline because of an obsession with shark fin soup, which is threatening to plunge ocean ecosystems into absolute chaos.

They’ve been demonized by the media and by Hollywood for decades. Every incident of humans getting bitten or killed by a shark instantly generates fear of a long misunderstood creature that likely only mistook a human for prey that it usually hunts such as seals. We really can’t blame sharks. After all, we’re in their environment.

And it’s an environment that is going to turn into a disaster if we don’t do something to save sharks now before they disappear. Shark populations are in serious decline today because of the demand for shark fin soup. The fin is tasteless, which makes it unnecessary for the broth it is cooked in. In most instances, people believe the fin has healing abilities even though the fin itself is high in mercury, which is poisonous to humans if enough is ingested. The soup is also popular among wealthy people in Asia who see it as a meal of privilege.

But again, humans do not have to consume it because we have plenty of other sources of protein to consume and modern medicines that actually work.

Because of the increasing demand for this soup, 100 million sharks are needlessly slaughtered every year, their fins cut off and left to die in the ocean, according to Humane Society International.

The reason why that is detrimental to the ocean is because they are a predator that keeps the ocean in balance, and their extinction would impact every organism in the sea.

“A world without sharks would be a world with oceans that are sick and dying,” conservationist Stefanie Brendl of Shark Allies told Treehugger. “It would be a gigantic failure for humanity that would affect everything from coral reefs to food security and climate change. Once sharks are gone, there is nothing we can do to replace the critical role they play in the balance of the oceans.”

According to Treehugger:

As apex predators, sharks maintain healthy fish populations by removing weak animals and allowing the strongest of a species to thrive. The organization describes sharks as also being like the white blood cells of the sea, “they keep the ocean clean and keep disease from spreading by removing the sick, dead or dying.”

Like all ecosystems that have evolved over time, each part is dependent on the others; in the case of the ocean, removing such an important component – the sharks – would have a cascading effect and throw the whole ocean out of whack.

Sharks are in such danger that even shark attack survivors have banded together to advocate on their behalf to protect them from further harm by humans.

Unfortunately, it really looks like this creature that has survived several mass extinctions and has been around longer than us won’t be able to recover unless governments take action. And that’s a real shame because if the oceans die, we die.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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