Saving Sharks: The Hazards of Overfishing

For every one human killed by a shark, there are approximately 25 million sharks killed by humans. Overfishing is dangerous for sharks and humans alike, which is why you should care about sharks.

In addition to adding flavor to our favorite sushi rolls, fish and other underwater creatures are a vital part of our ecosystem. To place our focus specifically on sharks – those supposedly “man-eating” and bloodthirsty monsters that the Discovery Channel loves to frighten beach-goers with each summer – scientists say they are currently facing extinction due to overfishing and environmental changes.

As there is a delicate balance between marine life and our general ecosystem, extinction of any species could lead to devastating effects in our world, both under and out of the sea.

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Why should I care?

Simple answer: Caring about sharks = caring about the ocean. When any species is  overfished, there are many consequences.

As defined by the NOAA, overfishing is when the rate of removal is too high for the stock, preventing the group of fish’ optimal sustentation. If a stock is “overfished,” the population is below a prescribed threshold, and should be managed and rebuilt to maintain balance in the ecosystem.

An overfished population is not necessarily always due to physical removal, but by environmental changes leading to the species’ decline. Sharks, on estimate, are harvested and commercially exploited in amounts up to 100 million every year.

Check out a jaw-dropping image illustrating shark statistics here.

Why is “overfishing” dangerous?

Fact: A human person is more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by a shark, with an average 4.2 fatal deaths by shark attack per year, and only about a dozen of the approximately 500 shark species should be considered potentially dangerous to us. (Check out the most recent figures here).

In comparison, the number of sharks killed per year could be anywhere between 63 million and 273 million, figures that experts say could drive many shark species to endangerment or even extinction. There are a number of sharks endangered already.

As apex predators at the top of the oceanic food chain, sharks are important in regulating the populations and varieties of fish below them, keeping the ecosystem at its healthiest. An unhealthy ecosystem is dangerous for all creatures – including me and you.

What can we do?

Avoiding deep-sea fishing and shark-fin soup isn’t enough to save the sharks or stop overfishing. There are several campaigns and organizations that are devoted to protecting these vital species such as the Global Shark Conservation or the Shark Conservation Society, through which anyone can help ensure the survival of our underwater friends.

Sharing the knowledge is also key to helping this cause. You can help others become aware that sharks are more than just TV entertainment one week a year by letting your friends and followers know that this is an important issue worthy of notice.


CITES, The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, is a treaty that regulates international trade in wildlife, currently signed by over 175 countries. Victory came to sharks in March of 2013 when Oceanic whitetip, hammerheads and porbeagle sharks were added to the appendix after proposals were accepted, resulting in strict regulations to protect these species from the demands of the trade.

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Cover photo courtesy of Ray Jeremia via Flickr Creative Commons.

Jennifer Markert