Given their reputation as cunning, cold-blooded aquatic killers, it's not surprising that many uninformed oceangoers might feel more afraid of sharks than sympathetic -- but for a team of researchers from the Pew Environment Group (spearheaded by shark-attack survivors, no less), what's even more fearful is a future without them.
Over the last decade, around a third of the world's shark species have been pushed threateningly close to extinction from overfishing, often to fulfill demand for one thing only: shark fin soup. And, as it turns out, the problem may actually be worse than you think.
Despite the fact that a growing number of states have already outlawed the sale of shark fins in recent years, the tradition Chinese delicacy is still on the menu in many restaurants across the United States. But while those who oppose such bans might argue that the sharks being served aren't from endangered species, the results of a new study prove otherwise.
Working in association with Pew and scientists from Stony Brook University, a group of concerned shark-attack survivors recently undertook a study in which they collected shark fin samples from soups served in fourteen cities nationwide for DNA analysis. And according to the survey, the samples contained 33 separate species of shark, including several species classified as either near-threatened, vulnerable to extinction, or endangered.
"This is further proof that shark fin soup here in the United States, not just in Asia, is contributing to the global decline in sharks," Liz Karan of the Pew Environment Group tells AFP.
For Pew spokeswoman Debbie Salamone, who helped organize the study, the fight to protect those marine predators from needless slaughter needn't be the reserved just for those with an affinity for sharks -- and she should know; ten years ago, her Achilles tendon was severed in a shark attack off the coast of Florida. That's why she sought to recruit others with similarly negative experiences with sharks to help raise awareness as to the threats they face.
"We were all in the ocean to begin with because we love it,” she tells Time. “If we can stick up for sharks, that turns a lot of heads. We all wanted to turn something really bad into something with a positive impact, then our suffering wasn’t for nothing.”