Animals & Experiences

Who doesn’t enjoy heading to the beach during summertime? But with the increase of visitors to beaches across the globe, the ‘hot’ topic of discussion is shark attacks.

In recent years, the worldwide average of confirmed unprovoked shark attacks has been declining. In 2022, the worldwide total was a record low at 57, compared to previous years when the average was 70. A new study, conducted by Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, also shows that the risk of a shark bite for surfers, swimmers, and divers in California, specifically, has dropped by 91 percent in the last 50 years.

With unprovoked shark attacks on the downward trajectory, what about human effects on sharks?

A recent report shows the global shark population has decreased by more than 70% in the last 50 years. This is a startling decline and poses a large threat to the recovery rate of these populations. But what is causing such a rapid drop?

Researchers have uncovered vast amounts of information regarding sharks, their behavior, and feeding patterns. This information has created a deeper understanding of sharks and their important role in our ocean’s systemic balance.

For decades, a gruesome practice called shark finning has resulted in the mass killing of sharks worldwide. This process involves cutting off a shark’s fin while discarding the remaining body, often dumping it into the ocean. The shark finning industry is still legal in areas across the globe and has increased in the past decade due to the growing demand for shark fin soup – a popular dish in many countries.

How many sharks are killed every year?

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year. To put this into perspective – that is nearly 2 million times the number of confirmed shark attacks worldwide in 2022 (57).

How does this affect our ocean?

As an apex predator, sharks play an important role in our ocean’s ecosystem. When there is a significant decrease in any population, the results throw off the entire system’s balance. The decline of these predators causes an increased population of their prey. For example, the decline of the endangered great hammerhead has caused the population of stingrays to increase. The growing stingray population now eats more of their prey – scallops, clams, and oysters. This not only impacts these prey populations, and therefore the biodiversity of the ecosystem; but also impacts human fisheries.

It is also difficult for many shark species to reproduce as quickly as they are being diminished, due to their slow growth and reproductive rates. This makes many shark species highly susceptible to extinction. Several species of shark are already endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, including the great hammerhead, zebra shark, whale shark, and over 125 other species. 98 other species are listed as critically endangered.

How are we helping sharks?

At Georgia Aquarium, and around the world, our teams are educating the public on the critical role sharks play in our ocean’s ecosystems. Government officials are also implementing protective regulations for endangered shark species, and in recent years, over 30 countries have placed full or partial bans on finning.

Research is also an important part of protecting and preserving shark species. A few years ago, Georgia Aquarium teams traveled to the Bimini Shark Lab in Bimini, Bahamas to study a variety of shark species and how pollution with microplastics affects them. Georgia Aquarium researchers were also the first to fully sequence the shark genome from blood drawn from its whale sharks, which scientists now use to study health implications with sharks and their unique adaptations.

It is imperative, now more than ever, that we spread the message on the importance of sharks to our ocean. At Georgia Aquarium, our Sharks! Predators of the Deep gallery serves to transform our guests’ view of sharks from fear to fascination. Many of the shark species in our one-million-gallon exhibit are endangered and serve as important ambassadors. By providing a deeper understanding of sharks, we hope to inspire compassion and create advocates to share our message of conservation.

Learn more about the decline of sharks and their importance to our ocean:

Reef Sharks Being Pushed to Brink of Extinction, New Research Shows

New Global Study Finds Unprecedented Shark and Ray Extinction Risk

Sharks & Rays in Rapid Global Decline: IUCN Report


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