For marine biologist Mike Heithaus, every week is shark week
Marine biology professor Mike Heithaus wrote the following piece for Inside Science Minds about how threats to sharks imperil entire ecosystems.
Throughout most of the world sharks are in trouble. Big trouble. In some areas, with adequate management, shark populations have stabilized, but likely at levels far below what they were decades ago. In the rest of the world, shark fishing continues to be a major threat to many species. Recent estimates suggest that around 100 million sharks are taken by fisheries every year.
Because of their slow growth – sharks may take a decade or more to reach maturity – and low rate of reproduction – many species have fewer than a dozen young a year – this rate of catches is unsustainable. The decline of sharks will continue.
Why should we care? What will that mean for the oceans and even for fisheries targeting species other than sharks? We know from studies on land that when large predators are removed, entire ecosystems can be destabilized.