By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Once again, it is Shark Week, a creation of the Discovery Channel, which has faithfully delivered documentaries and movies about sharks for the past 25 years, following up on the fascination with sharks undoubtedly inspired by JAWS (1975).

JAWS immortalized the apex predator of the oceans in a masterpiece of cinematic suspense. For sheer thrills, it’s an awesome movie. So I completely understand how this fright fest got going. Sharks are fearsome and should be celebrated.

Shark Week is an opportunity to learn (Photo: Discovery channel)

Shark Week is an opportunity to learn (Photo: Discovery channel)

I just hope that Discovery — which is carrying several videos about protecting sharks — and the many other groups (like Oceana) working to save sharks are breaking through to the wider public with the very serious news, frightening on another plane, that this object of terror also is the victim of a vicious, ongoing global attack.

Human predation against sharks is driving them toward extinction.

I don’t use that word lightly.  Worldwide shark finning kills an estimated 26 to 73 million sharks EVERY YEAR, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Some shark populations, those near human inhabited islands, have suffered declines of 90 percent over the past several decades, according to a NOAA-commissioned study. The wildlife monitoring group IUCN estimates that about one-third of all sharks and rays are facing extinction.

If you don’t already know, shark finning involves capturing a shark just long enough to shear off its fins, which are used to make soup and a few other delicacies.

The animal is typically dropped back into the ocean, where, unable to swim, it dies.

This sickening practice continues around the world, despite that some countries have banned this barbarous practice in their territorial waters, set up shark sanctuaries and outlawed vessels from landing with shark fins. The U.S. banned shark finning  in 2000, and tightened restrictions in 2011, passing the Shark Conservation Act.

Shark finning happens every minute of the day, way out on the oceans, away from witnesses. And back at shore, restaurants continue to serve pricey shark fin soup. It’s considered a delicacy and also is used as a ceremonial dish in parts of Asia.

So it’s like this: Amazing, dangerous, incredible sharks are being annihilated by entitled, unenlightened humans, who could totally do without this “food” source.

Shark finning defenders argue that some species of sharks aren’t endangered and can supply the trade — until of course they too are endangered.

Sadly, we humans only seem capable of learning the hard way. Killing these predators isn’t just mean, it’s stupid.

We don’t seem to process or care that apex predators, like sharks, sustain the populations beneath them. Yanking out a whole strata on the food chain risks collapse of those on every rung below.

And when the oceans are depleted, humans, who rely on the bounty of the seas, will suffer at least as much hurt as they visited on the sharks.

See more about why saving the shark will save ocean biospheres on Discovery’s video “What Would Happen if Sharks Disappeared?”

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