Pacific shark population on a dramatic decline
A new study done by a team of American and Canadian marine scientists found the pacific reef shark population to be in dramatic decline from human fishing.
The analysis published in the journal Conservation Biology, Friday, estimated that the shark population had fallen by 90 percent or more in the past decades.
By comparing the reef shark population around human populated islands and remote areas, researchers found the number of sharks to dramatically decrease where humans were present. Near highly populated islands such as the main Hawaiian Islands and American Samao, data showed there only to be about 26 sharks per square mile. Yet, the remote reef areas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or Johnson Atoll produced 337 sharks per square mile.
The scientists used more than 1,600 “towed-diver surveys” across 46 U.S. Pacific Islands and atolls. The decade worth of surveys were combined with data concerning human population, sea surface temperature, reef size and satellite records to formulate their conclusion.
“Our results suggest humans now exert a stronger influence on the abundance of reef sharks than either habitat quality or oceanographic factors,” the authors of the study wrote.
Julia Baum, co-author of the study, said sharks throughout the reef are in harm by getting caught in the nets of commercial fishermen or they are being directed killed for their fins, which can sell for $100 per kilogram, CNN reported.
The demand for shark fins is mostly coming from Asian markets where shark fin soup is a popular banquet entree.
“Reef shark fins are not the most valuable because they tend to be smaller than other sharks, but a lot of other oceanic sharks have already declined a lot so that’s why fishermen are now turning to them,” Baum said.
In 2010, a similar study done in the Indian Ocean and Chagos Archipelago showed that since the 1970s, the reef shark populations had declined 90 percent, The Washington Post reported.