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Most sharks living on coral reefs are facing extinction

NEWS AND OPINION: Most species of shark and rays living on coral reefs are facing extinction according to a study conducted by Dr Samantha Sherman and colleagues of Simon Fraser University in Canada. She said: “Many species that we thought of as common are declining at alarming rates”. These species are now some of the most vulnerable on the planet. Sixty per cent of the 134 types of sharks and rays linked to coral reefs are at risk of vanishing for good. The main cause? Overfishing. Which countries fish the most sharks? Indonesia and China. Shark fin soup comes to mind. It is shark Armageddon and no one really discusses it.

Coral reef sharks face extinction

Coral reef sharks face extinction. Image: MikeB at PoC.

Whenever there is a discussion about China it is inevitably about their economy and how the world can keep addicted to their mass manufactured products and how they are expanding their military including warships (to invade Taiwan). Not a mention about their addiction to shark fin soup.

Other contributing factors in the extirpation of these species of shark are changes in coastal habitats but overfishing is by far the biggest cause. Large shark species are particularly at risk such as bull sharks and reef manta rays. They can be seen in the waters of 60 countries. They are more likely to get caught in fishing gear. Sting rays are fished for their flesh to eat and for their skins.

It is feared that failing to deal with this could have serious detrimental consequences on the health of coral reefs which are already being destroyed by global warming which causes the seas to become more acidic. The builders of coral reefs including coral polyps have difficulty forming shells when the waters are more acidic.

Even from a human perspective – and I’m more concerned about wildlife conservation – this abuse of nature may be very serious as more than half a billion people rely on coral reefs for their livelihoods. Yes, sadly though they are overdoing it which is very typical of humankind in exploiting nature and the wild species. It is thoughtless short-term thinking. Humans have great difficulty in thinking long-term.

Sherman added: “We need to act now!” Humans also have great difficulty in acting quickly on such matters because it takes coordination between countries. An impossible barrier to speed as they disagree too much and pull in different directions.

She is calling for limits to fishing (aren’t we all except the commercial fisheries). And she wants well-situated and properly enforced marine protected areas. Also, there will need to be the provision of alternative livelihoods to those who lose their fishing rights.

Comment: there is zero chance that this will happen. Cynical? No, realism based on previous performance.

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