Sharks are terrible - but also endangered

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Keskiviikko 8.9.2021 klo 14:35 - Mikko Nikinmaa


The IUCN red list was again published. Although it is not able to give a full account of what the status of animal and plant species is, it gives an estimate of how nearly 140 000 species are doing in today’s world. There are some species, which are doing better today than in earlier year, but others, which are doing worse. Here I focus on fish, because they are of special interest to me. The red list information in full can be found at //www.iucnredlist.org/

The tuna species have long been among the endangered ones. However, it now seems that their stocks are recovering. This shows that if enough attention is placed on the status of a species, recovery is possible. The recovery of tuna populations is certainly due to the following: 1. The DNA of tuna catches has long been checked, so that catches including meat of the most vulnerable species could not be sold. This has directed tuna fishing towards the species not at risk. 2. The aquaculture of tuna has begun to be successful. This being the case, the need to fish natural tuna populations has decreased.

However, whereas tunas have started to recover, the same cannot be said of sharks and rays. Around forty percent of these cartilaginous fish are endangered. Virtually always, when sharks are in the news, they have killed or maimed a swimmer. Also, movies like the Jaws portray a negative picture of sharks. Consequently, they are considered to be evil, whereby very few people are against their disappearance. Yet, they are important components of healthy marine ecosystems, and the extinction of sharks leads to their deterioration. One of the main reasons for shark fishing is their use in shark fin soup. It has been considered a delicacy in Chinese cooking. In the quest for shark fins, only the fins were saved of the catch, and the rest of the shark thrown back to the water. Recently, there has been strong campaign against the use of shark fins, but at least as yet it has not helped the diminished stocks. The reason for this may be twofold: first, sharks reach sexual maturity late (often they are more than 10 years old), and reproduction is viviparous in many species with only a couple of pups born.

So, we should be worried about the disappearance of sharks. They are needed for keeping marine ecosystems healthy. The other animal group with a large proportion of species endangered is amphibians. They are suffering from the destruction of wetlands. Wetland destruction should be discontinued even if the purpose is not protecting amphibians, as it makes coastlands increasingly vulnerable to storms and flooding.

Avainsanat: biodiversity loss, extinctions, marine ecosystems, wetlands, amphibians, tuna


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