Plight of the Predator

…Sharks evolved 450 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs, and have survived five major extinctions [Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic and Jurassic]. They range from the 9″ pygmy shark to the 40′ whale shark; most live for between 20 and 30 years (some, like the spiny dogfish, up to 100). Far from being the solitary hunters of mythology, sharks are intelligent, social animals, many living in schools with more complex migration patterns than birds. Out of more than 360 species, only three have been involved in a significant number of fatal, unprovoked attacks on humans: the tiger, great white and bull sharks.

But now, thanks to the shark fin [soup] trade and unscrupulous [industrial scale] fishing methods, sharks are facing their greatest ever threat. The shark specialist group of the World Conservation Union claimed recently that almost every species of large shark found in European waters is heading for extinction. There are 13 species classified as critically endangered, meaning their numbers will decrease by 80% within three generations…. estimates that 90% of sharks have disappeared in the past three decades, with up to 100 million being killed a year.

Why should we care?

As apex predators as the top of the ocean’s food chain, sharks are not evolved to be preyed upon, and their lifecycle – slow growing, long living, late breeding – makes it hard for them to cope with sustained attack from driftnets, longlines and bottom trawling.

By removing the top predator we are pushing the ocean ecosystem which we rely on to regulate our climate into an unknown future, which could be potentially disastrous for man. More than 70% of the world is made up of oceans and they are home to algae – plants that range in size from single-celled organisms to massive crops of kelp – which through photosynthesis remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen [more than all the rainforests on earth].ย 

Climate experts such as Sir James Lovelock have declared that algae is perhaps the single most important cooling element on earth… by killing off sharks, smaller sea creatures [ordinarily eaten by the sharks] will flourish and consume greater quantities of algae. The shark is essential…

(Excerpt from an article by Tom de Castella, from the Telegraph Magazine)

If you get chance to see Sharkwaterย in the cinema or rent it on DVD, do.

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10 Responses to Plight of the Predator

  1. jiva says:

    I’ve become much more careful what fish I eat recently. I love fish but after seeing the new BBC series on the pacific I saw a whole shoal of tuna being lifted out of the sea in one net. Very saddening and has made me change my shopping habits. Only line caught or organic farmed for us now. Shame we have to choose, they should not be fishing to that level in the first place.

  2. woo says:

    Couldn’t agree more – I use a widget on my mac to help figure out which fish are okay to eat (i.e. not so massively over-fished that their stocks have crashed like cod etc).

  3. modestypress says:

    Dear Trucie,

    I suppose you think buttering me up like this will change my mind about snacking on you. As a matter of fact, I think you will go down very well slathered in butter.

    Your friend, Whitey

  4. Not only have they survived so well for so long and an essential predator, they are also very cool.

    With the acidification and warming that the oceans are experiencing, we may not have to make any choices about what fish to eat. It is no beyond the bounds of probabililty that there won’t be any to eat in a century or less. If that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.

  5. woo says:

    Dear Whitey,

    I’m really not that tasty. Honest.

    Love and hugs,
    Trucie Woo xx

  6. woo says:

    healingmagichands – yes, it is a truly sobering prospect.

  7. Another worry is that the Japanese are harvesting whale food in the same way. Huge numbers of krill are finishing up on Tokyo tables and the whales will starve if they aren’t harpooned first.

  8. Oh, and I am quite sure you would be very tasty – buttered up with a white wine sauce ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. woo says:

    Archie – exactly. The times when we could look upon the sea as a source of inexhaustible bounty have gone: our industrial fishing methods have seen to that. Its shocking when you look into it.

    (We’re just completing an Atlas of the Sea)

    And I’m sure you’d be equally scrumptious ๐Ÿ˜‰

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