It has become apparent of late that there is no place on Earth wildlife does not feel the negative impact humans can have on their ecosystems and livelihood. The idea of an island out there that is free of all human activity and influence is just that, an idea.
New research published in Science Advances has found evidence showing reductions in shark population in the Chagos archipelago, a place that was once thought to be almost pristine.
The Chagos archipelago can be found in the Indian Ocean, thousands of miles away from any major land mass. The declining shark populations show that even in the most remote coral reef systems of Earth, humans can still cause loss and devastation.
The researchers had wondered what impact humans may have on such a remote area of the world and set off to the archipelago. Even though it is so remote, the area has been visited by humans and has recorded fish and shark population estimates through history. The researchers chose to focus on sharks due to their abundance in the area and because they are the dominant species.
The team used a variety of techniques to determine the current population. Analyzing shark records going back a half century, population surveys conducted in 1948, the 1970s, and a current estimate, the researchers created an algorithm designed to offer population predictions given a variety of environmental conditions.
The results showed sharked weren’t as abundant as they were originally believe to be. Of the two dominant sharks, there were an estimated 571,310 gray reef sharks and almost 32,000 silvertip sharks. These population numbers are 93 percent than the predicted level.
The researchers explained that the findings mean this area has been exploited longer and more intensely than previously thought, and it is almost certainly because of overfishing. While an area like the Chagos archipelago appears to be undisturbed, it is not. Human reach has covered the whole Earth.
As well, throughout the study, researchers found plastic covering the reef systems. Each day, it becomes more clear that plastic waste and overfishing are two of the biggest threats to our oceans.