July 8, 2015
- as seen by -Rhett Butler @Mongabay.com@mongabay
Sharks are in the headlines again after a series of incidents along beaches in North Carolina. But before changing your summer vacation plans, consider that shark attacks are exceedingly rare – you are about 8o times more likely to be killed by lightning than a shark, according to data from the International Shark Attack File compiled by the University of Florida.
In fact, humans take a far greater toll on sharks, killing tens of millions annually for their fins and meat and as bycatch when fishing for other species. This slaughter is not making beaches safer, but it is impacting marine ecosystems and potentially the availability of seafood. A 2007 study published in the journal Science found that disappearance of sharks triggered a boom in their prey populations – rays, skates, and smaller sharks – which depleted important shellfish, including scallops, oysters, soft-shell and hard clams.
So the next time you order a plate of oysters or scallops, think about the plight of sharks and the role they play in maintaining healthy and productive ecosystems.