The Solution

Posted on Mar 23, 2009

There is no question that sharks are in danger of being hunted to extinction. The question is what do we can do about it. The first step is to do everything possible to protect the current shark populations. This is similar to the situation that the harp seal was in thirty years ago. Clubbing baby seals was actually a lucrative way of making money. That was until the United States and allies started putting pressure on the countries that exported seal fur. This pressure made it impossible to sell the fur and created a public outcry against the practice of wearing seal fur garments.

        Sharks have a more uphill battle since showing a baby shark to someone does not provide the warm fuzzy feeling that one might get when seeing a baby seal, but the same international pressure would help the shark. If the United States and her allies started to apply pressure to the countries that are the primary users of shark products, the same result could happen.  It could lead to Japan and China signing the shark fishing ban and allow the shark a chance to bounce back.

        Stiffer fishing regulations would also serve to help sharks as well as other ocean predators that are hurt by long line and drift net fishing. This would be the same type of regulation that keeps canned tuna fish dolphin-safe. We need to start making seafood producers realize that as consumers we do not want to hurt the sharks when we buy sea food. I would love to see cans of tuna that say they are dolphin AND shark safe. 

        The third part of the solution is to start researching the habits of sharks. Scientists know very little about the mating habits of sharks. This means that if they wanted to raise sharks in a controlled setting to reintroduce them, like the gray wolf, they would be unable to because we have never gotten them to mate in a controlled setting. By all accounts some sharks only mate every two years. This means that it will take a while to get the populations restarted. If we were able to have populations started in aquariums we would be able to provide a much needed boost to the shark population through reintroduction.

        Other actions that would help sharks bounce back would be to have a shark fishing season. Having a time of year that it is legal to fish sharks would allow fishermen to get a viable catch while allowing sharks time to recover their population. Since there is little known about sharks mating habits, picking the right time of year might be difficult but with a little more research scientists should be able to pick a season that would be best for sharks.

        Another important step to saving the shark is to find an alternative means of acquiring the cartilage needed. The cartilage used in a lot of the supplements could just as easily come from cows or sheep. For marketing purposes I can see the beauty of marketing sharks; they are powerful and amazing creatures, but I think that it would be easier to get cartilage from an animal that is raised in ranches around the world.

        The final idea for saving the sharks is to research how to farm sharks. There are certain breeds of sharks that are smaller and more docile then the stereotypical killer shark. These sharks would be easier to farm and they would be less likely to eat each other. This would provide shark fins and cartilage for both the shark fin soup market and the medical uses. This would also kill the incredible black market prices for shark fins that cause fishing boats to risk treaties to get the shark fins.