About Sharks

Sharks have been living on the earth for more than 200 million years when dinosaurs were still roaming the planet. They shaped evolution by forcing their prey to adopt better ways to survive. Today there are more than 440 different shark species living in the oceans, ranging from only a few centimeters in size (such as the Dwarf Lantern Shark) up to 12 meters (the amazing Whale Shark that only feeds on plankton and small fish).

Apart from smell, sight and hearing sharks have a special sense that detects the electromagnetic fields that all living things produce. Sharks have in fact the greatest electrical sensitivity of any animal on earth. While they use this additional sense mostly to detect prey it also helps them to navigate around the magnetic field of the earth.

Sharks are amazing swimmers that can reach up to 50 km per hour and their migration patterns are highly complex, with many sharks covering entire ocean basins. Contrary to the common believe that sharks are just instinct driven predatory machines recent studies have shown that many shark species possess strong problem solving skills, social skills, curiousity and engage in playful activities.

Contrary to their bad reputation only few sharks can be dangerous to humans. In fact more people die of dog and crocodile attacks each year than of shark attacks. The only sharks known to have attacked humans in the past are the Great White, the Oceanic White Tip, Tiger and Bull Shark. However, attacks only happen by mistake as humans, that are no popular feed with sharks are mistaken for seals or other fish. The perception of sharks as dangerous and aggressive killers has been popularized since the 1950s and has led to a totally undeserved image of sharks as man-eating monsters.

Little is known about shark's reproductional behavious, but most sharks give birth to babies with only few species laying eggs. Depending on the species the gestation period can take up to 24 month. Due to their low fertility rates and long lifespan (some sharks can live for over 100 years) sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Since the 1980s sharks of all species have been plucked from the seas in ever greater numbers. This trend was fuelled by China's growing appetite for Shark Fin Soup, a status symbol among Chinese that is said to be a remedy against various ailments. In fact none of this was proven by medical tests and shark meat is often heavily polluted with heavy metals.

For their fins, the animals are caught and the precious fins removed with a hot metal blade. The now immobile shark is thrown back into the sea where he dies from suffocation or predators.

By now, an estimated 100 million sharks per year are killed by humans, around 75% of these for the shark-finning industry. This trend has diminished the world's shark population by 90%!

Since the fins sell fir as much as USD 1000 per kilo it is difficult to stop the trade. Poachers are illegally finning milliions of shark every year but few governments enforce laws to protect the precious fish.

A move by the United Nations to list the Hammerhead Shark, a highly intelligent and beautiful species, has been blocked by Japan, China and Indonesia in early 2010. Shark fisheries around the globe get little monitoring and during the last 20 years many shark species have been driven on the rink of extinction. Many governments have acknowledged to protect sharks from overfishing but little progress have been made.

Removing sharks from the oceans is threatening the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem. Sharks sit on top of the underwater food chain and their slow extinction may have catastrophic consequences. Fewer sharks lead to an increase of small fish that in turn eat more plankton, which is highly important in locking in CO2 from the atmosphere.

Sharks need our protection - We have to act now to stop the extinction of sharks and illegalize shark finning before it's too late !