Overfishing of Sharks
Overfishing is not a new phenomenon and has stirred various debates because of its detrimental effects on the ocean. According to Sumaila & Tai (2020), the ocean’s significant role is to mediate planetary weather patterns, carbon cycling, and carbon sequestration and therefore requires a “healthy” ocean to perform such functions. These roles depend on marine life, and fish is a significant entity in the marine ecosystem. Thus, a mess with fish’s population jeopardizes the health of the entire ocean. While Link & Watson (2019) acknowledge fishing as integral in economic growth, they also corroborate with Sumaila & Tai that overfishing adversely affects the marine ecosystem, primarily the existence of specific species. The Green Peace Organization cites various fish species at significant risk of extinction, citing sharks as one of the endangered species. Similarly, Segar, Kish, & Mills (2018) mention that sharks are among the over-exploited fish that unfortunately have a low reproduction capacity. Therefore, this paper argues that while it may have quite substantial benefits to the economy and health, there is a pressing need for the crafting of international policy to prevent overfishing of sharks for better marine ecosystem.
People fish sharks because of their excellent benefits both economically and health wise. According to Yan et al. (2021), Asian people, primarily the Chinese have exceptional shark dishes that are quite affordable which have caused an increased demand for the shark in soup-making and meat consumption. Unfortunately, the increased demand is causing a slow death of the marine ecosystem that, when unregulated, will cause devastating effects on the ocean’s health, consequently affecting the marine ecosystem because of overfishing. Shiffman et al. (2020) assert that overfishing is the second largest cause of the shark population’s depreciation after finning.
While there may be several species, as Shiffman et al. (2020) note, the notable shark species featuring in the endangered species are the Sawback Angelshark, Smooth back Angelshark, and the Squatina squatina,[also Angelshark]. The specific locations of interest, therefore, are the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Atlantic.
Recovering a particular population of species is not easy. According to Segar, Kish & Mills (2018), a past shark recovery period was approximately thirty years. Yet, overfishing in a span of a mere three years was enough to deplete the species yet again. Even though Shiffman et al. (2020) argue that conservations may help protect the species, the decreased population will harm the ocean in the long run. In the U.S., the Sustainable Fisheries Act has helped stop overfishing, bycatch reduction and pushed for the end of overfishing stocks rebuilding (Segar, Kish & Mills, 2018). The Law is applicable in the country and does not have an international mandate such as the Law of the sea. The proposed solution thus is for the Law of the Sea to enact other international policies such as the Sustainable Fisheries to prevent overfishing, primarily in the Mediterranean Sea and the Eastern Atlantic notorious for overfishing the abovementioned endangered shark species.
In conclusion, there is a pressing need for the crafting of international policy to prevent overfishing of sharks for better marune ecosystem. Specifically, the Sawback Angelshark, Smooth back Angelshark, and the Squatina squatina are endangered species in the Mediterranean Sea and Eastern Atlantic. The ideal solution is to add an act such as the Sustainable Fisheries Act applicable in the U.S by the Law of the Sea to address overfishing which is an international issue.
“Red List Fish.” Green Peace Organization. Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/oceans/sustainable-seafood/red-list-fish/
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Segar, D.A., Kish, S.W., Mills, E. (2018). Ocean Studies: Introduction to Oceanography (4th ed.). The American Meteorological Society, Boston, The USA.
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Sumaila, R. & Tai (2020). “End Overfishing and Increase the Resilience of the Ocean to Climate Change.” Frontiers in Marine Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2020.00523
Yan, H.F., Kyne, P. M., Jabado, R. W., Leeney, R. H., Davidson, L. N., Derrick, D. H., Finnucci, B., Freckleton, R. P., Fordham, X.V., Dulvy, N.K. (2021). “Overfishing and habitat loss drive range contraction of iconic marine fishes to near extinction.” Science Advances, Vol. 7(7). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb6026