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Rising Shark Deaths Challenge Conservation Efforts Amid Global Anti-Finning Laws

Despite a tenfold increase in anti-finning laws worldwide, a recent study featuring crucial insights unveils a disconcerting trend of escalating shark deaths. 

Shark find drying in the sun
Shark Fins. Photo by Alex Hofford

The research, published in the esteemed journal Science, not only reports reaching more than 100 million in 2019 but also highlights that approximately one-third of the sharks killed during this period belonged to species on the verge of extinction.

hammerhead sharks that have been caught by fisherman
The Endangered Hammerhead Shark. Photo by Steve Woods

The intricate findings expose a troubling surge in coastal fishing, responsible for an overwhelming 95% of shark deaths, witnessing a 4% increase in the mortality rate. 

Conversely, offshore fisheries, particularly those in the Atlantic and western Pacific oceans, show a noteworthy 7% decline in shark deaths. Paradoxically, the crackdown on shark finning, while successful in curbing the practice, appears to have inadvertently fuelled a surge in the demand for shark meat. This shift is particularly evident in emerging markets such as Brazil and Italy, where shark meat, often mislabeled, finds its way to unwitting consumers.

shark steaks that are mislabelled
Mislabelled Shark Steaks in Brazilian Supermarkets.

This study not only underscores the imperative for a holistic approach to safeguarding sharks but also emphasises the urgency in light of the increase in shark deaths. It advocates for measures like complete fishing bans, stringent regulations for threatened species, and a phased-out transition from indiscriminate fishing methods. The researchers, aware of the potential unintended consequences of regulations, stress the need for thoughtful implementation to ensure the effective and sustainable conservation of these awe-inspiring creatures that play a crucial role in maintaining marine ecosystem health. 

a shark swimming in the ocean
Sharks How They Should Be - Alive! Photo by Steve Woods

As we grapple with the complexities of rising shark deaths, it becomes evident that a broader perspective is essential to navigate the delicate balance between environmental preservation and human practices.

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