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Endangered Shark Species

Abhijit Naik
Once regarded the terror of the deep seas, sharks are battling for their very survival today. The ever-growing list of endangered sharks gives you a rough idea as to how we have made a joke of the word 'biodiversity'.
Sharks are found in all the oceans of the world, right from the Arctic to Antarctic. More than 450 species of sharks exist in the world today. At first glance, that may come as a relief for people concerned about the rapid rate at which animals are becoming extinct. However, a bit more probing, and you realize that the picture is different from what it appears.
Several species of sharks have been brought to the verge of extinction, predominantly as a result of human activities. In fact, the population of some sharks has declined by 90 percent over the last few decades. If this continues, these names will soon be transferred from the list of endangered animals to the list of extinct animals.

Most Endangered Sharks

Lack of proper monitoring of shark fisheries worldwide is one of the major hindrances in shark conservation. Several Asian countries, including economic giants like China and Japan, have been continuously opposing the need for restrictions on international shark trade.
Our greed of short term economic gains leaves no space for the vision required to maintain a proper balance in the biodiversity of the planet. The end result is a new name being added to the list of endangered shark species every once in a while.
More than a hundred species of sharks have been subjected to commercial exploitation over the last 3 - 4 decades, thus leaving their population in a dire state. If this trend continues, some of these species will not even live for another decade. The list features various species of sharks including the great white shark, sand tiger shark, basking shark, hammerhead shark, etc.
  • Angular angel shark
  • Basking shark
  • Bigeye thresher
  • Bluegrey carpetshark
  • Borneo shark
  • Dusky shark
  • Ganges shark
  • Great White shark
  • Gulper shark
  • Oceanic Whitetip shark
  • Tiger shark
  • Pondicherry shark
  • Porbeagle shark
  • School shark
  • Smooth Hammerhead
  • Smoothback angelshark
  • Smoothtooth blacktip shark
  • Speartooth shark
  • Whale shark
  • Whitefin topeshark
While some of these species have experienced an overall decline, some have been subjected to a total decline in a particular region. The oceanic whitetip shark population, for instance, has declined by 90 percent in the central Pacific ocean, while the same in the Gulf of Mexico has declined by a whopping 99 percent. Similar is the case with several other species that are battling for their basic existence.

Why are Sharks Threatened by Humans?

The popular belief that humans are threatened by sharks doesn't quite hold ground today, when several shark species are on the verge of succumbing to large-scale exploitation by humans. Overfishing is one of the major concern for the shark population the world over, as the demand for shark fins and cartilage in the international market continues to soar.
While shark fins are used to prepare shark fin soup, a status symbol in the Asian countries, its cartilage is used for its alleged therapeutic value, which is yet to be proven scientifically.
Habitat destruction is yet another factor responsible for the decline in number of sharks. Mangroves, which act as nurseries for sharks, have also been exploited by humans, thus resulting in lack of breeding areas for the species. Then there are other factors, like low reproductive rate and long gap between their birth and sexual maturity, which are indirectly responsible for the decline of these species. The rate at which various sharks are reproducing is far too low, compared to the rate at which they are being slaughtered for our selfish interests.
Even though the crisis that sharks face today are more than obvious, they fall short of waking the administration from its slumber. Time and again, it has been proved that wildlife conservation methods are only initiated when the species become rare and it is too late to save them. Serious depletion in the number of species goes for a toss, when economic gains come into the picture. If this attitude doesn't change, it won't be long before these sharks become extinct and trigger a series of aftereffects on the Earth's ecosystem.