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Sharks swim at the top of the ocean food chain, and have done so for hundreds of millions of years -- since before the dinosaurs. But today, scientists say that nearly 30 percent of sharks and related rays are at risk of extinction.
Every year, up to 73 million sharks are killed for their fins, valued mostly for the Asian delicacy shark fin soup. Shark fins are considered one of the most expensive food items in the world, with prices reaching as high as $300 per pound. As a result, the wasteful practice of shark finning has developed: fishermen slice the fins off of sharks they catch and then throw the shark back into the water dead or dying.
Sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few offspring over long lifespans, making them particularly vulnerable to overexploitation and slow to recover from overfishing.
The loss of sharks, one of the apex predators in the marine environment, can and will cause drastic and irreversible changes. For example, scientists have found that declines in sharks can contribute to a shift from healthy, coral-dominated reefs to barren, algae-dominated reefs.
It's time for international leaders to recognize the importance of sharks and protect these animals. The United Nations must urge member countries and international governing bodies to protect sharks to ensure a healthy marine ecosystem, and a sustainable future.
Tell international leaders to take concrete action to conserve sharks globally, and by doing so, protect the health of our oceans.THE LETTER: