Why Protect Sharks?

Introduction

It is important that every measure be taken to protect sharks because the well-being of the ocean depends on it. The entire ocean's food chain relies on the contribution of sharks and if they were to reach the brink of extinction, it would be too difficult to recover due to irresponsible human activities as they can provoke unpredictable consequences to nature. In particular, sharks regulate the ecosystems natural balance on all levels, which means that they are a critical part of them and keep the ocean population in good condition, strong and healthy. Nonetheless, the effects of sharks’ elimination from the ocean ecosystem, are highly unpredictable and can be damaging from an ecological perspective. Several trends have been observed the relation to the sharks.  In particular, due to the lack of appropriate management, many sharks are under risk of great decline due to over fishing. Moreover, sharks are the victim of negative media portrayals (such as in the popular movie Jaws) and societal perceptions regarding the actual threat they present. Such an attitude strongly affects the environmental well-being and the species safety. Hence, the great trends indicating a sharp decrease in the population of sharks now is the time to take action before it is too late. That said the literature in this report is organized according to the content in the way to demonstrate the reality of the threat of shark extinction, to show the influence of human activities on sharks and their importance to the environment, and to represent the issues regarding the sharks’ nature. The sources regarding the extinction threat offer evidence in support of the need to take action, while the other source is included to explain in detail the sharks’ nature, their role and main threats from humans.

Literature Review

The concerns about chondrichthyans – that is, the diverse class of fishes that include sharks and rays – have been provoked by the realization that they are vulnerable to over-exploitation due to their K-selected life-history strategy that can be explained by the close relationship between the breeding biomass size and number of young produced, natural mortality, low fecundity, long life spans, sexual maturity late attainment, and slow growth (Stevens at al., 2000). By comparison, the teleost populations – the infraclass of which 96% of all current species of fishes belong to - usually represent great short-term variability in recruitment mostly due to the environmental factors influencing their larvae and eggs. Their high mortality provides them with a good ability for density-dependent change in comparison to chondrichthyans (Stevens at al., 2000). When overfishing takes place, many shark populations take several decades for recovering. The poor record of the target shark fishery sustainability is evidence of their vulnerability.

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In particular, the research stated that some half of the estimated global chondrichthyans caught were not in any official fishery statistics and the practice tends to take place unregulated (Stevens at al., 2000). When taken as “b-catch, they are subjected to high fishing mortality aimed at the Teleost target species and in the results some deep-water dogfish, and skates were virtually extirpated from large regions” (Stevens at al., 2000). There is evidence targeting these fishes and taking them as by-catch leads to the great population size decline. The greater chondrichthyans caught in the Indo-West Pacific without proper regulation in addition to the higher diversity and endemism rate in this region have provoked many worries (Stevens at al., 2000). It was found that indirect effects of fishing influence the diversity of chondrichthyan populations as well as the composition and fish assemblages through trophic interactions (Stevens at al., 2000). The differential fishing vulnerability exists among rays and sharks and large late maturing species are the most vulnerable. It has provoked changes in the community through competition release.

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 Moreover, there is other research that also highlights the threat of shark extinction. In the research comparisons were made between “the life-history traits and the chondrichthyans risk extinction, a high conservation concern group from the three main marine habitats such as deep sea, open ocean and continental shelves controlling for phylogenetic correlations” (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). It was found that deep-water chondrichthyans had a greater age at the longevity and maturity, and lower growth completion rate in comparison to the shallow-water species (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). The fishing mortality average has driven deep-water chondrichthyan species to extinction at a rate that has increased from 38 to 58% of the provided for continental shelf and oceanic species (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). The great extinction risk determinant was the reproductive mode while the body size had the weak influence on the extinction risk. Also, it was found that a great relation exists between the extinction risk and phylogeny; in particular, the species loss that was in common with the phylogenic diversity loss (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). Hence, conservation priority has not been restricted to large species because many small species have also had a great high extinction vulnerability. Moreover, deep-water chondrichthyans fishing mortality has to be minimized, while new deep-water fisheries influencing chondrichthyans have to be prevented. The species risking extinction is in a strong relation to the life-history traits (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). Species with lower productivity, particularly with a long interbirth interval, late sexual maturity, slow growth rate and small litters have fewer chances to compensate for increased mortality and as a result are more vulnerable to extinction (García, Lucifora, & Myers, 2008). Therefore, the sharks are too difficult to recover and they have to be protected.

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The main culprit that has placed sharks in danger of extinction is human activities, in particular their perception regarding sharks. The ecosystems and natural resources use can be influenced by peoples' attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, and values that interact with the environment (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). Moreover, these beliefs and values can also influence the management and conservation outcomes. The relation between the management, conservation, behavior and attitude outcomes is significant for rays and sharks because there is the significant conservation imperative (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). A lot of shark species perform a critical ecological role in the marine ecosystems and increasing worries have been expressed by scientists who see shark conservation and management as priority issues. Sharks are often incorrectly perceived as something dangerous from the public attitude perspective. Such relation was found to influence the status of species populations and conservation efforts efficiency (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). In particular, in Europe and the US it has been found that the negative relation to dangerous predators often promotes the attitude that leads to negative environmental outcomes (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). Hence, such negative media portrayals can influence shark management and conservation efforts.

A study was conducted to examine the perception of sharks within the time and how they were affected by people. The research is focused on “applying the 53-year long collection for the recreational magazine Sports Diving to identify the experience of recreational divers with marine protected areas, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), shark, and rays” (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). It was found that there was the driver activities diversification with emergence of passive-observational activities (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). The relation toward sharks and rays changed greatly with recreational divers, with adventure-seeking hunters giving way to the group of nature-appreciating observers, which means the rise in conservation awareness. The GBR has been a highly regarded dive destination with divers having positive protective effect within the MPAs (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011). Nonetheless, the significant reduction in larger fish, sharks and rays were found within this period. It was found from surveys that within the time, the attitude toward sharks changed and they gained high values and people expressed concerns regarding the shark population status (Whatmough, Van Putten, & Chin, 2011).

Other research also focuses on the role of human activities influence on sharks. Terrestrial and marine ecosystem provokes many disturbances due to the human effect on nature through environmentally damaging activities (Ruppert et al., 2013). One of the main concerns is the system's ability to recover where the multiple stresses perform instantly. The research analyzed the issue from the coral reef ecosystem perspective where the raises in stressors such as coral and cyclones clenching, benthic degradation, fisheries often occur from the global perspective (Ruppert et al., 2013). In the Australia northwest coast evidence was found that shark population loss can have an influence that propagates down the food chain, and leading to mesopredator release and altering the primary consumer's numbers (Ruppert et al., 2013). Due to the sharks’ removal through fishing that promotes herbivore abundance, it can be applied to both anthropogenic and natural challenges, including the coral's loss because herbivores are critical to the coral recovery outcome and progress.

Therefore, sharks are highly important within the ecosystems and to save them it is critical to realize their nature. Trophic level estimates for them are virtually non-existent (Cortés, 1999). In order to assist in better identification of the shark's ecological role in the marine communities, the research provided the diet compositions and trophic levels that were counted from the species suite (Cortés, 1999). Hence, a dietary composition for all species was taken from published quantitative researchers through the use of a weighted average index that considers the sample size of every research. The trophic level valued of the eleven food types characterized diets were then used to count fractional trophic levels for 149 species showing 8 orders and 23 families (Cortés, 1999). In comparison to the trophic levels for marine community’s predators mean TL for sharks increased among seabirds even as there was no changes among marine mammals (Cortés, 1999). TL and the body size were found to be in a positive relationship with the fit raising when the three predominantly zooplanktivorous sharks were omitted and particularly when considering carcharhinid sharks (Cortés, 1999). Hence, among four families of sharks, the carcharhinid types have a higher trophic level than the other two types (triakids and scyliorhinids) but not sphyrnids.

Conclusion

In general, the analyzed sources are quite relevant and significant. They provide critical information regarding the tendencies toward the sharks and their roles in the ecosystems. The first research is critical because it represented information regarding the fishing negative effects on sharks. Due to this, it possible to realize the burden of the researched problem. The other sources emphasize the threat of the chondrichthyans extinction. It insists that the deep-water chondrichthyans fishing mortality has to be reduced, while the new deep-water fisheries influencing the chondrichthyans have to be regulated. The third source helps to realize the background of the negative perceptions of sharks by the society. Moreover, it represents the clear interaction between human attitudes and nature and the changes provided to the marine environment. The next research contributes to the realization of the shark's significance that is expressed through its great influence on the food chain and indeed the well-being of the entire ecosystem. This last study is helpful in realizing the shark's nature, their dietary and conditions of well-being. Nonetheless, the analyzed research has certain limitations and gaps. In particular, most of the studies were focused on the spaces within one region, and for other locations and contexts, the situation can be different. Overall, the sharks are a critical part of the marine ecosystem in terms of providing the well-being of ocean and marine inhabitance. Sharks have to be protected and not hunted to extinction because this can provoke unpredictable and serious environmental consequences. Nonetheless, after the research the problem arises in regards to deciding upon the best ways and tools for saving sharks. It is critical to realize what effective strategies can be applied in order to decrease the threat of shark extinction.

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