Sharks are usually considered as the greatest threat of the sea. Sleek and perfectly suited to their environment, sharks can easily swim between your feet while you’re wading without your knowledge given the space is large enough for their size. When they strike, depending on the species, it is often swift, surprising and disabling if not deadly. This makes many people consider that the extermination of sharks may not be such a bad idea. Because of its fierce attitude and natural human fear, fishing for shark has become a popular past-time (Peterson, 1993). Sharks are hated not only because of the threat they offer when we humans are out trying to enjoy some of our favorite amusement activities, but also because of the even greater threat they pose to our needed food supply. Many species of shark enjoy eating the same types of fish commercially fished for human consumption. However, shark fishing is not a good idea for a number of reasons.
Because of shark fishing activities, sharks are quickly going extinct. This is particularly true of the larger sharks that continue to get caught in larger commercial ventures, but recreational fishing also tends to target these sharks because of the bragging rights their capture conveys on the fisherman. “Baum said that the findings of a five-year-long research project at Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University showed that all the shark species have declined by over 50 percent since the early 1970’s. And the population of some species, including the tiger, bull and dusky sharks has plummet[ed] by more than 95 percent” (Wohn, 2008). It is uncertain whether restrictions on shark fishing will be strong enough to preserve them. “Like many large species, these sharks take many years to reach sexual maturity, and bear few young. That makes it difficult to sustainably fish for the species, and sets up a prolonged period during which they will recover” (Shapley, 2007).
There is considerable risk involved in fishing for shark as well that doesn’t just affect the fisherman. Sharks will go where the food is just like every other animal. Oceans are being depleted of feeder fish by commercial fishing and pollution which reduces the areas of the ocean in which fish might survive. Pesticides and fertilizers from farms flow down rivers and streams creating ‘dead areas’ or coastal areas that can no longer support life such as shrimp, fish and crabs (Miller, 1990). A common practice when fishing for shark is to do what is referred to as ‘chumming’ the water, or dumping a large amount of fish guts into the water to lure sharks to the area. “Unnecessary berleying [chumming] attracts a larger number of sharks to an area, thus making it more dangerous for other waterway users” (Healy, 2006). Increases in shark attacks may have less to do with hungrier sharks and more to do with sharks being lured closer to where people typically swim.
Recreational shark fishing actually provides very little in the way of community benefit while introducing potentially great harm. It offers the sportsman a great deal of challenge and a formidable prize to boast of later, but it also depletes an important planetary resource while encouraging dangerous animals to swim in closer to shore where helpless and innocent swimmers might be at play. If you feel you just have to catch a shark, do the homework, know where and how to fish for the safety and well-being of others and be sure to keep only pictures after releasing the live shark back into the water.
- Healy, Terry. “Shark Fishing – Safety First.” Queensland Government. (2006).
- Miller, G. Tyler. Living in the Environment: An Introduction to Environmental Science. Belmont: Wadsworth, 1990.
- Peterson, Iver. “New Rules Can’t Limit Lure of Shark Fishing.” New York Times. (1993). Web.
- Shapley, Dan. “Shark Fishing for Fin Soup Depleting U.S. Oceans.” The Daily Green. (2007).
- Wohn, Yvette. “Sharks Hammered by Over-Fishing.” Harvard Science. (2008).