Swift, graceful, mysterious, superbly adaptedto their environment, sharks have been theapex predators of the oceans since longbefore dinosaurs roamed the planet. Forsome 400 million years, they have beenthe unchallenged rulers of the deeps andshallows of the marine world.
No longer. They are falling victim to a ercer
predator that is threatening to end theirlong reign and driving them to the edge of extinction. That predator is us—people. Inrecent decades, human appetites, technology,economics, and greed have mounted aferocious assault on sharks, an assault thatis bringing their numbers crashing downthroughout the world’s oceans. Killed for their fins, for their flesh, for theirskin and other body parts; killed for sportand for souvenirs; killed by accident, sharksare now among the most threatened groupsof animals on Earth. Ironically, however,even though people are the principal threatto sharks, they also are their greatest hope. The fate of sharks has broad implications. There is increasing evidence that the lossof sharks may have a ripple effect on thevitality of food webs in many areas of theglobal ocean. “They are our canary in the coalmine of the oceans,” said Dr. Boris Worm, aprofessor of marine biology at DalhousieUniversity in Nova Scotia. Governments around the world are begin-ning to recognize the value of healthy shark populations. Some rely on the dollars sharkscan bring through dive tourism; some seesharks as culturally significant to legendand tradition. Others are acknowledgingthat just as a healthy savanna needs itstop predators to weed out the weak andinfirm, so vibrant marine systems need
sharks. Recognizing this opportunity, ThePew Charitable Trusts initiated a campaignto reverse the decline of shark populationsworldwide. At the core of Pew’s shark conservationefforts is its work to establish sanctuaries inthe waters of key countries and stop theoverfishing of sharks in places wherethey still stand a chance to rebound. Shark sanctuaries provide full protections for sharksin a country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ),the area of ocean that extends up to 200miles from shore. As the continued expansion of industrialfishing leaves few places in our oceansuntouched, now is the time to protect theselast remaining places where sharks can stillrule their marine world.
—Jill Heppdirector, Pew global shark conservation