shark Sharks Facing Extinction on the Great Barrier Reef   Shark Fishing to Blame

Sharks are facing extinction on large parts of the Great Barrier Reef as well as in other parts of the world. The reason for this is ruthless fishing to provide the Asian markets with shark fins. The fins are removed from caught fish while they are still alive and the sharks are then flung back into the sea where they sink towards the bottom and to their death. Most shark species need to swim to be able to breathe and drowns after they have been thrown back without their fins. A very high number of sharks fall victim to Asian shark fishing vessels and end their life this way each year. This doesn’t just threaten the world’s shark populations but also constitutes an enormous waste of resources as most of the sharks (everything except the fins) is simple flung back into the sea without being used.

Many sharks fishing vessels ignore fishing rules and fish in protected areas and marine preserve which have led to plummeting shark populations in marine preserves as well. This does not only leave us without protected shark populations that might help restock the populations outside the preserves but also put stress on the eco system within the preserves. This might put other species in the preserves at risk as well.

An example of this illegal fishing was recently reported in north Queensland were a research trip done by Richard Fitzpatrick and his team showed that it was hard to find and catch sharks on the reefs off Cairns and Port Douglas.

Mr Fitzpatrick says the decline is the result of over-fishing on the reef.

The team found dead sharks thrown back into the sea in protected areas in the Cairns and Port Douglas, area like the cod hole which might indicate that shark fishing vessels fish within protected areas. They also found sharks that simply had their tail fins cut of and most likely had been killed by people who don’t like sharks and that simply wanted to kill them. It is however possible that they where fished for their tailfins and that they where caught for commercial reasons but if that was the case it is likely that the other fins would have been harvested as well.

The shark fin trade is to a large extent a black market and no one has a good overview of it and how big it really is. This is making it extremely hard to take actions against this fishing and the only way to create effective shark preserves might be to create large patrolled areas that are off limit to all non authorized vessels. A more desirable method to target the problem would be campaigns designed to limit the demand for shark fins. The question is how and if an effective campaign like that can be created,