The frightening reality is, like them or not, sharks play a crucial role on the oceans in a way that an average fish does not. Remove sharks from the oceans and we are tampering with our primary food and air sources. Sharks are at the top of the food chain in virtually every part of every ocean. In that role, they keep populations of other fish healthy and in proper proportion for their ecosystem.
Predatory sharks prey on the sick and the weak members of their prey populations, and some also scavenge the sea floor to feed on dead carcasses. By removing the sick and the weak, they prevent the spread of disease and prevent outbreaks that could be devastating. Preying on the weakest individuals also strengthens the gene pools of the prey species. Since the largest, strongest, and healthiest fish generally reproduce in greater numbers, the outcome is larger numbers of healthier fish.
Where sharks are eliminated, the marine ecosystem loses its balance
The lesson is important. Sharks are being killed for their fins for shark fin soup, food that has assumed cultural value but is not important for human survival or health. However, removing the sharks can result in the loss of important foods that we do depend upon for survival.
Sharks have survived for 450 million years, but may be gone within the next decades. Life within the oceans, covering 2/3 of our planet, has enjoyed a relationship with sharks for about 450 million years. Our growing demand for shark fin soup has increased the slaughter of sharks to such a great extent that many shark species are already nearing extinction.
An example is in Hawaii with the Tiger Shark. It was hunted so badly in Hawaii that other smaller fish-eating sharks moved in and ate all the fish so fisherman no longer had anything to catch. Basically when you remove an apex predator from the food chain another species will fill the gap and dramatically change the ecosystem.
One study in the U.S. indicates that the elimination of sharks resulted in the destruction of the shellfish industry in waters off the mid-Atlantic states of the United States, due to the unchecked population growth of cow-nose rays, whose mainstay is scallops. Other studies in Belize have shown reef systems falling into extreme decline when the sharks have been overfished, destroying an entire ecosystem. The downstream effects are frightening: the spike in grouper population (thanks to the elimination of sharks) resulted in a decimation of the parrot fish population, who could no longer perform their important role: keeping the coral algae-free.
Another example is reefs in Australia sharks were nearly wiped out and there became an over population of other marine life which destroyed reefs and sea grasses. This may not seem to important, but what most people forget is the ocean is that Sharks have sat atop the oceans’ food chain, keeping our seas healthy for 450 million years. They are a critical component in an ecosystem that provides 1/3 of our world with food, produces more oxygen than all the rainforests combined, removes half of the atmosphere’s manmade carbon dioxide which controls our planet’s temperature and weather; Our existence, in part, is dependent upon the Sharks; eventually men would die off as well.
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(thanks to Sea Shepard & Shark Savers)