For most people, the cry “Shark” puts fear into their hearts yet sharks have far more to fear from humans. Many shark species are under considerable risk of extinction with some species having declined by 89% from 1986-2000 as a result of exploitation, especially the barbaric practice of shark finning, and lack of conservation. Sharks take a long time to reach sexual maturity so that practices like finning result in unsustainable levels of mortality. Sharks, rays and skates are being killed at the alarming rate of approximately 100 million worldwide annually. Some experts predict that in less than twenty years many species will become extinct if the killing continues at the current rate.
Although almost every large-scale shark fishery is collapsing, global shark exploitation and trade remain unregulated and no international management scheme exists. Africa in particular lacks shark conservation and shark fishery management policies and continues to be exploited by wealthier nations.
Sharks are considered good bio-indicators of the health of the ocean yet, despite their importance in the marine food chain, they remain a low conservation priority. The elimination of large numbers of predators at the apex of the marine ecosystem could have dramatic and undesirable ecological impacts by altering the balance of marine ecosystems and could jeopardize the production of other species of commercial interest. Much education and work is needed to achieve even modest goals in shark conservation.
In an effort to educate our visitors and demystify these misunderstood animals, we offer narrated feedings at our Shark Shallows daily as well as Shark Encounters for those who want a closer look.
In addition, Coral World is assisting important scientific research by tagging all the captured sharks we release back into the wild and tagging various species of wild sharks of all size ranges to track their behavior and movements. We place a very small tag next to their dorsal before releasing the shark back into the sea. Sharks have a great immune system and heal quickly; thus the tag has little effect on the shark. Understanding the lifestyle of these apex predators provides information on the role of sharks in the health and diversity of the animals in the food chain below them. We share our research with the National Marine Fisheries Service, where there has been an ongoing study. Our tagging program is funded entirely by Coral World.