Shark conservation is the effort to save the world’s shark population, which is endangered. The main threat to these ocean predators is man, who has made many species of shark the prey, rather than the hunters at the top of the ocean’s food chain. One estimate says some shark species populations today are only about 20 percent of what they were in the 1970s. The population depletion has several causes, but the main one is a practice called "finning" that strips the shark’s fin for the purpose of selling it as the main ingredient in shark-fin soup, after which the shark dies. The goal of shark conservation is to protect sharks from some of these practices that are making their population endangered.
When one considers the shark's life cycle, it becomes clear why organizations that work for marine conservation and animal conservation are concerned about the shark. The population is shrinking, but sharks do not reproduce fast enough to replenish their numbers. A shark needs a relatively long time to reach the age of reproduction, and they produce are far fewer young than other fish. Their offspring also differ from many other fish because sharks have live births, rather than laying eggs.
Finning is a major obstacle to shark conservation, but there are other problems, too. Shark finning has led to the loss of approximately 73 million sharks around the world annually. Another concern of shark conservation is called “bycatch,” which happens when commercial fishermen inadvertently catch sharks while hunting other types of fish, such as tuna. An additional threat is damage to the shark habitat, which can be attributed in part to pollution and climate change, as well as to the harm done to the shark’s breeding grounds, which include reefs.
When the number of sharks goes down dramatically, the result can have far-reaching effects. Sharks are the top predators in their ecosystem, and when their numbers dwindle, it affects other parts of the ecosystem. Without enough tiger sharks, for example, green sea turtles will over-forage beds of sea grass, leading to the beds' destruction.
Governments around the world are responding to the need for shark conservation measures. The Bahamas and the Marshall Islands have created shark sanctuaries, and some nations, including Chile and the United States, have banned finning. Honduras and the Maldives do not permit shark fishing at all.