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by August 31, 2013
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.
Dear [Decision Maker]:
Sharks have played a critical role in maintaining healthy and balanced marine ecosystems since before the time of dinosaurs. However, these top predators are now being removed from our oceans at unsustainable rates.
Scientists assess that nearly 30% of sharks and related rays are threatened or near threatened with extinction. Scientists have also found that, without sharks, the balance of the ocean's food web is disrupted and the health of the oceans is compromised, with potentially dire consequences.
Sharks are not only essential for the marine ecosystem, but are also important for the tourism industry and sustainable development. Sharks are a primary attraction for thousands of diving operations around the world. These businesses generate jobs and revenue for coastal communities, providing an economic alternative to shark fishing, with far greater economic benefits for coastal communities.
We therefore call on the world's leaders to take concrete and meaningful action to conserve sharks globally, ensuring their survival into the future, including:
* Protecting sharks that are vulnerable to extinction;
* Developing management plans to ensure the recovery of depleted shark populations and the restoration of the critical role they play in the ocean environment;
* Calling on international governing bodies to apply the precautionary principle to shark management, mandating that shark fishing does not occur without a scientific plan in place that insures the sustainability of shark species;
* Restricting the number of sharks that can be killed in international waters; and
* Creating sanctuaries or other protected areas where sharks can live and breed free from over-exploitation and can help generate tourism income.
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