Shark Attack

If Chief Brody and Quint were cioppino lovers, perhaps they wouldn’t have been so quick to jam a pressurized air tank into a Great White’s mouth. (If you haven’t seen the 1975 classic, Jaws, our apologies for spoiling the ending.)

Scientists recently found that overfishing of predatory sharks like the great white, bull, dusky, and hammerhead in the Atlantic Ocean caused a huge decline in bay scallops, a shellfish beloved by so many seafood connoisseurs. A study published yesterday in the journal Science shows that predatory sharks declined by about 99 percent between 1970 and 2005, causing a population boom in rays and skates, the sharks’ typical entrees. Since rays and skates feed on seagrass bed-dwelling creatures, bay scallop populations have been decimated.

From a Reuters article:

“With fewer sharks around, the species they prey upon—like cownose rays—have increased in numbers, and in turn, hordes of cownose rays dining on bay scallops have wiped the scallops out,” said study co-author Julia Baum of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Large sharks first came under attack about 25 years ago when fishing groups sought a replacement for cod fishing.  Now, shark dishes frequently show up on restaurant menus throughout the world, with an especially high demand in Asia.  Additionally, many sharks are killed in swordfish nets.

And it’s not just scallops that will suffer from the shark decline:

“We know that once they eat the things that are the most easy, evident and obvious to get, which are those on the surface of the bottom like a scallop and an oyster, they turn to digging in the bottom to get buried shellfish,” co-author Charles “Pete” Peterson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said by telephone.

Since scallop populations are all but demolished in North Carolina’s bay scallop fishery, the feeding frenzy will likely affect shrimp, crabs, and young grouper and snapper, too.At one point in Jaws, Matt Hooper, the shark expert played by a shaggy-bearded Richard Dreyfuss, offers his opinion to the mayor about dealing with the town’s shark attack problem.  “I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you on the ass,” he says.  While we realize that Jaws is just a horror movie(and quite a funny one at that), here’s hoping Hooper’s poignant observation won’t ring true in the case of shark overfishing. 


If you want to act against shark slaughter then please sign this petition:

To: Hu Jintao president of the People's Republic of China.

Currently the Chinese people are eating a soup which is causing the biggest ecological disaster of our time. Supplying the demand for Shark's Fin soup involves the death of what best estimates say are between 50 and 150 million sharks a year. This is unsustainable and will inevitably lead to all sharks becoming extinct, many species are already over 90% eradicated.
The shark is the apex predator that keeps the whole ecology of the sea in balance and healthy. Nobody knows what the effects of their removal will be but is can be guaranteed to involve a lot of unwanted harmful outcomes.
This petition seeks the Chinese government to ban the catching, import and sale of sharks and all shark related products.

Recreational shark killing tournaments are also held up and down east and west coast fishing communities in the US and Canada. These events foster insensitivity to sharks and put more pressure on their populations. It's time the killing of sharks for commercial as well as recreational purposes be stopped.

Predators such as sharks, whales and seals are key to healthy ecosystems. Fishermen like to blame other species for the collapse of fisheries populations, but they are to blame most often for taking too much fish and killing so many predators. It's a tragedy that the wholesale slaughter of sharks (world-wide, especially China), harp seals (Canada, Greenland and Norway), dolphins (Japan), and whales (Norway, Japan and Iceland) continues. All for products we don't really need in the 21st century: shark fin soup, seal skin coats, meat (in the case of Canada and Japan) that is so contaminated by pollutants that few people want to eat it so it is frequently used as pet food or feed on fur farms. These governments should be ashamed of themselves.