Endangered Sharks: Millions Killed Every Year, For Soup

By Sean Kane , Mar 02, 2013 08:27 AM EST

Close to 100 million sharks are killed every year.

Scientists met this week for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (which, unfortunately, is not a good place to get a rad, illegal pet) in Bangkok. There, they discussed how to protect vulnerable shark species, like oceanic whitetips, porbeagles and three variations of hammerhead.

A new study published in the journal Marine Policy Friday estimated that 97 million sharks were caught and killed in 2010, though the study mentions that this number could be as low as 63 million and as high as 273 million. This number is slightly less than 2000’s 100 million catches. The estimate took into account catches, discards, unreported landings and “finning” (removing a shark’s fins and throwing it back in the ocean).

Shark fin soup is a popular dish in Asia, and the demand for the soup is a huge contributor to unsustainable shark fishing. The study also estimated that between 6.4 and 7.9 percent of the world’s sharks are killed every year. Sharks grow slowly and reproduce infrequently, making them vulnerable to overfishing.

“Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand,” lead author Boris Worm, of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada told The Guardian. "Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many sharks species in our lifetime.”

The convention has put forward proposals that would classify the vulnerable shark species as Appendix II. Classifying these species as Appendix II makes sure that their trade in international markets is legal and sustainable. Elizabeth Wilson, manager of global shark conservation at Pew Environment Group, believes that this classification could help slow sharks’ declining numbers.

“A simple vote ‘yes’ to support their listing could turn things around for some of the world’s most threatened shark species,” Wilson told The Guardian. “Countries should seize this opportunity to protect these top predators from extinction.”

In other vulnerable killing machine news, as of Friday, the Great White Shark is now protected under California’s Endangered Species Act, reports CBS.

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