Sharks have been in the news lately, causing fear among many people. But the reality is that just as sharks seem dangerous to us, they are in danger themselves. Sharks are crucial to healthy ocean ecosystems but many species are now endangered as a result of overfishing. In an effort to support healthy oceans, Hy-Vee has committed to not sell shark meat to its customers.
Sharks have been on Earth for at least 400 million years (Worm et al 2013). In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over a long lifespan. These biological characteristics make them especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.
Every year approximately 100 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries. There is increasing global demand for shark fins, endangering certain species like scalloped hammerheads.
Even when consumers make the choice to not eat shark, it’s important to ensure they are choosing to eat responsibly caught fish. More than half of the sharks caught each year are caught as bycatch in non-directed fisheries where they are not the species being targeted.
Declines in shark populations contributes to changes in abundance of their prey and can upset the balance of ocean ecosystems. Sharks are key predators and therefore have an important role in healthy ocean ecosystems, according to the NOAA.
The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” began Sunday, July 5. For more information, including ways in which you can help save sharks, visit http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week.