Not just Shark
Pictures: Elasmodiver contains photos of sharks, skates, rays, and
chimaera's from around the world. Elasmodiver began as a simple web
based shark field guide to help divers find the best places to
encounter the different species of sharks and rays that live in
shallow water but it has slowly evolved into a much larger project
containing information on all aspects of shark diving and shark
There are now
more than 5000 shark pictures and sections on shark evolution,
biology, and conservation. There is a large library of reviewed
shark books, a constantly updated shark taxonomy page, a monster
list of shark links, and deeper in the site there are numerous
articles and stories about shark encounters. Elasmodiver is now so
difficult to check for updates, that new information and pictures
are listed on an Elasmodiver Updates Page that can be accessed here:
Shark fin soup was once a
delicacy reserved for special occasions but a 2006 study conducted by
Fisheries Scientist Shelley Clarke indicates that up to 73 million sharks are
now being killed annually to supply the fin trade. This is three times higher
than the official catch statistics reported to the FAO because it includes new
data taken from illegal shark fin traders who do not report their catches.
soupís increasing popularity is linked to the continuing growth of the Chinese
economy. Now that more people can afford to buy shark fin soup, the demand has
sent the price of fins sky rocketing. This has led to an increase in shark
finning activity that is putting stress on shark populations all over the
The act of shark finning is extremely barbaric. As the
sharks are dragged onto the boat their prized fins are sliced off. To avoid
losing precious cargo space, the valueless carcasses are then tossed back into
the sea where, unable to swim, they sink to the seabed and drown. This
wasteful practice has been outlawed in many countries including the USA but
policing the shark fishing industry is very difficult and illegal shark
finning fleets continue to drive shark stocks towards extinction.
The problem is that sharks grow very slowly. Some
species can take more than 20 years to reach sexual maturity which means that
they run a high risk of being caught before they are able to produce the next
generation. Sharks also have very few offspring. Unlike bony fishes that
release millions of eggs each year, sharks incubate their young internally and
only give birth to between 1 and 50 pups depending on the species. Of these,
only a few will survive the first year. As the oceanís apex predators this
reproductive strategy serves them well. Their low birth rate ensures that they
will not overrun their food supply but unfortunately it also means that they
are unable to respond to increased fishing pressure.
A recent study in the Gulf of Mexico found that the
Oceanic Whitetip Shark population has been reduced by a staggering 99 percent
and researchers speculate that many other shark species are in a similar
To combat rampant shark finning the IUCN Shark
Specialist Group has proposed a limit on the fin to body weight ratio of
landed sharks. This discourages shark fishermen from discarding carcasses at
sea but it does not specifically limit the number of sharks that they may
land. It is a band aid solution that has slowed down some shark finners but it
has driven others underground.
While monitoring the shark fishing industry is
important, educating consumers is just as critical. Sharks are vanishing from
our oceans at an alarming rate and the outlook is not an attractive one.
Without sharks, the incidence of disease among fish species will increase.
Some marine populations will explode leading to crashes among others and the
eventual breakdown of the entire marine ecosystem. A high price to pay for a
bowl of soup.