Operation Apex Harmony

Why are Sharks Important?

Predators are vital components of ecosystem health. Large sharks are apex predators and are a significant part of marine ecosystems, but they are also slower growing, later to breed and have relatively few offspring. Large sharks are extremely sensitive to fishing and many shark populations are in rapid decline. 

The plight of sharks

Fishing has dramatically reduced shark numbers all over the world. Populations of large sharks have rapidly and drastically declined, particularly in recent decades and they are very sensitive to any amount of fishing. Because they breed relatively late in life and have fewer offspring than many large fish, it takes a long time for shark numbers to recover. 

 

Nearly a quarter of shark species are listed as threatened or endangered by the IUCN. Many more have not been sufficiently studied to conclude their conservation status.

Why do we need sharks?

The impact of predators on ecosystem health is well established and there is good evidence that the loss of predators can both directly impact prey species and indirectly affect other species. Large sharks are impressive apex predators, with jaws and teeth well-adapted to hunting and eating large prey animals. Top predators help keep prey species healthier by picking off weaker individuals, leaving the stronger ones to breed and therefore improving the gene pool. Smaller and filter feeding sharks also help keep prey species in check and many shark species are scavengers that keep the ocean cleaner and healthier.  

 

Most of the world’s people live near or depend on the ocean for their livelihoods. More still use the ocean for recreation, travel and food. Sharks help keep the marine ecosystem healthy and we benefit from the ecosystem services they provide. 

Sharks are very, very old

Sharks have been around for over 400 million years! In that time, they have become extremely diverse and today shark species fill nearly every corner of the planet, from the poles to the tropics, the ocean floor to the beachside shallows. There are over 500 recognised species of sharks ranging from the tiny lantern sharks that could fit in the palm of your hand, to the largest fish in the ocean, the whale shark, which grows to nearly 20 metres long. 

 

Sharks are crucial to the health of the marine environment. Sharks have shaped the ocean ecosystems for millions of years and we benefit from their presence in global waters. Large sharks are particularly important predators and if they disappeared, as many of them might, we would miss them.

"At the end of the day, sharks can live on this planet without us, but we cannot live on this planet without them" - Sea Shepherd Australia's Managing Director Jeff Hansen. 

 

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