Photo via radcarper via Flickr Creative Commons
Sharks are, without a doubt, being caught at unsustainable rates worldwide. To slow the overfishing of shark species, over 100 governments adopted a plan 10 years ago at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to each create their own national action plan for sustainable shark fishing. However, according to Traffic and the Pew Environment Group, only 13 of the top 20 shark-catching nations have developed such a national plan, and it seems that fewer are enacting them. Without the support of the top nations that hunt these animals, do sharks stand a chance? According to Pew, "With 30 percent of all shark species now threatened or near threatened with extinction, there is little evidence that the plan has contributed significantly to improved conservation and management of these animals."
As apex predators, sharks are slow to mature and slow to reproduce, which means that shark species can't recuperate quickly after large catches. As they are caught for finning or as bycatch, their numbers continually shrink. However, their presence is essential to maintain the health of various marine ecosystems.
The Huffington Post reports, "The groups [Traffic and Pew Environment Group] urged governments at the FAO meeting next week to have the U.N. agency complete a thorough review to determine what countries have and haven't done to comply with their pledges to manage their fisheries."
Pew has released a report titled The Future of Sharks: A Review of Action and Inaction that details which 20 countries are the top shark-catchers and whether or not they have taken action on the promise they made in 2001 with the UN FAO to find a sustainable balance for catches.
"The top 20 shark catchers account for more than 640,000 tonnes annually, nearly 80 percent of the total shark catch reported globally. The top 10, in order, are: Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan, United States, Japan, and Malaysia. Indonesia, India, Spain and Taiwan account for more than 35 percent of all sharks taken annually, based on their own reported data. "
Without serious action from the top nations, our ocean's main predators that keep ecosystems in balance will disappear.
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