Oceana released a report today that concludes sharks are essential in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.
While sharks still have the reputation of hungry human hunters, they now represent the largest group of threatened marine species on the World Conservation Union's Red List of threatened species, according to the Environmental News Network.
And we're to blame. Each year, humans kill more than 100 million sharks worldwide. Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana, is quoted in a release: "Humans represent the greatest threat facing sharks today. Without proper management and increased enforcement, some shark species are likely to go extinct."
Shark finning kills 26 to 73 million sharks annually, and the shark carcasses are typically dumped overboard. In addition, many - possibly tens of millions - sharks are caught as bycatch each year. They are most often seriously injured or dead and also thrown overboard.
Oceana explains that as apex, or top, predators of the sea, many shark species are a necessary component to maintaining a complex ecosystem. Sharks feed on the animals below them in the food chain, helping to regulate and maintain the balance of life in the ocean.
The organizations says sharks also provide essential food sources for scavengers and remove sick and weak individuals from prey populations.
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