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Sharks are endangered as an exclusive result of human impacts and activities. Today, the main shark threats include shark finning and entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
Sharks are apex predators, meaning they sit at the top of their food chain, and they play an important role in the overall health of the oceans. Other shark threats include habitat degradation and climate change.
The entire ocean ecosystem is affected be declining shark populations. Sharks are long-lived, mature late, and they produce few young (pups), making them especially vulnerable to exploitation.
The biggest threat to sharks, skates, and rays is overfishing. Shark fins are particularly sought after for both traditional Chinese medicine and shark fin soup – considered a delicacy in Asia. Watch a 5min video on Shark Finning by Tulley Beard.
Commercial shark-finning is where sharks are caught, their fins cut off, and body discarded. Shark finning kills an estimated 100 million sharks per year.
Commercial fisheries are also having a major impact. Bycatch is the unintentional capture of a non-target species. Fisheries targeting tuna and billfish, in particular, have a high impact on sharks.
Rays and skates are also under threat from unintentional capture in commercial fisheries. They are greatly impacted by bottom trawl fisheries as they are mainly bottom dwellers.Bottom-dwelling sharks are also impacted by this fishery.
All sharks depend on healthy ecosystems to survive and find prey. Habitat degradation includes effects from climate change, pollution, and destruction of areas, such as mangroves and reefs. These areas are used for both breeding and finding prey, and they provide protected habitat for young sharks pups.
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