How you can help protect sharks and what’s not working

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Sharks are among the most important animals on Earth and the most environmentally threatening. Recent reports show that Up to a third of all known shark species and their relatives, rays, Endangered. Unsustainable overfishing is by far the biggest threat.

The loss of sharks could disrupt coastal food webs on which billions of people depend for food. When food chains They lose their top predators, the rest can disintegrate like Smaller prey species multiply.

In my years talking to the public about sharks and ocean conservationI’ve found that many people care about sharks and want to help but don’t know how. Solutions can be quite technical, and it is difficult to understand and estimate the scale and scope of some threats.

At the same time, there is a huge amount of oversimplification and even misinformation on these important topics, which can lead people of good will to support policies that experts know will not work.

I marine biologist They sought to improve this situation through Shark researchers survey Helping scientists to identify Research topics that can enhance memorization. I also wrote a book, “Why sharks matter: Dive deep with the world’s most misunderstood predator. “Here are three ways anyone can make a difference to sharks and avoid taking ineffective or even harmful steps.

Don’t eat unsustainable seafood

The #1 threat to sharks and rays – and arguably, to marine biodiversity in general – is unsustainable overfishing. Some fishing methods Incredibly devastating for marine life and habitats.

They can also produce high rates of accidentalUnintentional hunting of non-target species. For example, fishermen who chase tuna may accidentally catch sea ​​turtle Or sharks swimming near the tuna.

The single most effective thing consumers can do is avoid seafood produced using these harmful methods. This does not mean completely avoiding seafood Urging some defenders. Seafood is healthy, delicious, and culturally significant, and there are eco-friendly ways to sustainably capture it. but there sustainable shark fisheries.

Reputable organizations such as California Monterey Bay Aquarium Publish Sustainable Seafood Guides It classifies different types of seafood based on how it was caught or raised. While experts may debate the specifics of some of these ratings, consumers can follow these guidelines and know that they help protect sharks and ocean life in general.

A 2020 study of 371 coral reefs found that sharks have virtually disappeared from about 20% of them.

Support reputable environmental nonprofits, not malicious extremists

Many large environmental nonprofits work on shark issues and provide opportunities for participation, such as donating money and networking with elected officials and other decision makers. In my book, I describe the work of many of these groups, including my favorite, International Shark Foundation.

Unfortunately, some organizations promote pseudoscience that doesn’t help anyone or anything. In a 2021 study, my colleagues and I surveyed employees of 78 nonprofit organizations that work on shark conservation issues to understand whether and how these organizations are involved in shark conservation science.

We found that a small but vocal minority had never read scientific reports or spoken to scientists and communicated False and blatantly harmful views sharks can’t help. For example, some organizations are trying to persuade some airlines to stop carrying shark products such as dried fins, without acknowledging that more than 95% of fins are shipped by sea or that there are sustainable sources of these fins.

One thing that bothers me in particular is online amateur solicitations that may not reflect actual circumstances. For example, in the spring of 2022, about 60,000 people signed a petition asking Florida to ban the practice of shark finning — without acknowledging that Florida has Shark fin was banned in the early 1990s. As I explain in my book, it is essential to identify organizations that are using science to support worthy conservation goals and to avoid promoting others who do not.

See the experts

Many ocean science experts, management and conservation Active on social media. Following them is a great way to learn about new fascinating scientific discoveries and keep Issues.

Unfortunately, Sharks You also get a lot of sensational coverage in the media, and well-meaning but uninformed people often spread misinformation on social media. For example, you may have seen posts celebrating the state of Hawaii Banning shark fishing in its waters—But these publications do not indicate that about 99% of Hawaii’s fishing occurs in federal waters.

Do not take the bait. By getting your information from reliable sources, you can help others learn more about these fascinating and environmentally important animals, why they need human help and the most effective steps to take.

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