This week kicks off Discovery Channel’s 25th anniversary of Shark Week, and while the TV lineup will certainly contain the sensational shark footage of these apex predators that people love to watch with shows like ‘Air Jaws Apocalypse’ the take home message of the series has always been one of conservation and coexistence. And for sharks that is an important message indeed.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins alone in order to be used to make shark fin soup most notably targeting the porbeagle shark, the oceanic whitetip and the globally endangered hammerhead sharks whose fins are considered to be of the highest market value. The brutal process of “finning” involves catching a shark, cutting off its fins typically while alive, and then throwing the still living shark back in the water where it drowns or bleeds to death. Defenders has worked with other conservation organizations, both domestically and internationally, to raise awareness of this practice and see it ended. However, shark finning isn’t the only threat sharks face. Tens of millions more sharks are killed each year as what’s known as “bycatch” which means they are accidentally caught and killed in fishing nets while fisherman are targeting other species. In areas where sharks are becoming critically endangered off the US coast this is particularly discouraging news. In 2011 Defenders worked with many conservation organizations in California to stop the sale, possession and trade of shark fins in the Golden State. And thanks to thousands of our CA supporters sending letters and calling their state legislators the bill was passed. However, sharks are still being killed there as by-catch, specifically great white sharks that live in the waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. But thanks to our ever vigilant friends at Oceana, The Center for Biological Diversity, and Shark Stewards a petition was sent last week to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to protect the estimated 340 great white sharks that live there against bycatch by listing them as an endangered species. If successful the petition could change the way fishing is conducted in the area and give crucial protections to the great white sharks that live there.
We hope that you will tune in to Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and learn more about these majestic animals from the deep and what’s being done to protect them.
And of course, to watch some awesome shark footage.