Photo by kiwi flickr via Flickr Creative Commons
Many shark species are coming close to the point of extinction thanks to finning -- the practice of killing sharks only for their fins and dumping the usually still living shark back into the sea to drown. One such species is the Great Hammerhead, which is coveted for its large fins. But how do we protect sharks, especially particular species of sharks, if we know little or nothing about their movements in the ocean? That is something researchers are working to change, and they've managed to track one into an unusual area. EarthTimes reports that researchers have tracked the first Great Hammerhead into water north east from south Florida into the mid Atlantic.
"It is vital to track sharks to identify hotspots - places that are important for feeding, mating or pupping, and to discover their largely unknown migration routes. Without the knowledge of how they use the seas, it is difficult to make a plan for the animal's conservation," said Neil Hammerschlag of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "We think that the shark was probably following food species like mahi-mahi or jacks off the continental shelf in the open Atlantic into international waters where they are vulnerable to illegal shark finning."
The research was published in Inter-Research, and the scientists hope that a better understanding of migration routes will lead to better protection for these and other species.
EarthTimes writes, "These sharks are being directly targeted. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the great hammerhead is thought to have declined in numbers by as much as 50% in the last decade. Forensic DNA analysis on great hammerhead fins in the Asian markets have shown that most of the fins are coming from the endangered Atlantic population."
With enough knowledge about where these sharks are migrating to and from, efforts can be directed at protecting them along their feeding, breeding, and pupping grounds.
Luckily, awareness is on the rise about the dangers of shark fin soup, a dish that can cost as much as $1,000 a bowl and the primary reason why shark fins are in such high demand. Advocates like Yao Ming has been a strong activist against soup, and some areas like Hawaii have even banned the sale of the soup. However, we still have a long, long way to go before sharks can make a population comeback.
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