New research has shown that sharks are functionally extinct in a shocking 20% of coral reefs worldwide. Without these sharks, the delicately balanced reef ecosystem faces an ecological collapse.
A species is classed as functionally extinct when the numbers have declined to such an extent that the species are no longer significant in the ecosystem and cannot maintain their population. Researchers used baited, remote underwater video cameras to estimate the abundance of reef sharks at 371 surveyed reefs. Initially, they expected to observe sharks at all coral reefs—however, they found that they were absent in an unfathomable 69 of these.
The decline in the reef shark population is linked to areas suffering from poor governance and places with many residents. The numbers of sharks decreased when close to markets; sharks are threatened by hunters for their meat and fins and as by-catch.
The data collected from the first-ever worldwide survey of #sharks on #coralreefs can guide meaningful, long-term conservation plans for protecting the reef sharks that remain – @jcu – @DalNews – @FIU – @aims_gov_au https://t.co/CoOkVTR1ch
— Shark Research Institute (@SRI_Sharks) July 24, 2020
Sharks are essential for the maintenance of the ecosystem: as apex predators, they regulate the numbers of other species below them in the food chain and indirectly maintain reefs. They also bring in a lot of tourism for establishments and countries. Moreover, the loss of any species and thus biodiversity is mournful.
The scientists concluded that all is not lost regardless, and they believe that we can reverse the population decline.
Government intervention is essential to control fishing and hunting. In particular, Indonesia, India and Pakistan are three of the main countries accountable for a large proportion of sharks killed. In fact, most of Asia has a poor score on the animal protection index and the continent has a reputation for appalling animal welfare.
Animals in Asia are among the most abused in the world. From bears captured and caged for their ‘bile’, to dogs and cats slaughtered in horrific ways for their meat, exploitation of animals in Asia is common and widespread. – AnimalsAsia.org
The Bahamas has a high abundance of reef sharks, most likely due to fishing being strictly regulated and numerous acts protecting sharks. A combination of conservation efforts worldwide (but particularly in the ‘problem countries’) is key if we want to restore numbers.
Read more here about how you can be more sustainable and help protect these species.