When we think of white sharks, it is often of imagery associated to the film Jaws or something similar. But often overlooked is the importance the apex predator plays to marine eco-systems as they act as the guard to a well maintained system.
Given that, we often forget the importance of the white shark and our planet has seen white sharks numbers decrease dramatically for many years now and the impact on the oceans is obvious. White sharks around the world are being overfished or caught as a product of bycatch, plummeting the population of the species.
In the latest incident, a great white measuring over four meters was delivered and sold at a fish market in Su’ao Township, Yilan County last week, after being caught as bycatch of the northeast coast of Taiwan.
The shark weighted in at 1170 kilograms and was sold at auction at a price of NT$50 (US$1.62) per kilogram for a total of NT$58,500 (US$1,898.90).
When the animal was brought ashore and had an incision cut in the shark’s abdomen, the sellers discovered that the shark was pregnant with 14 baby whites revealing the devastating reality that continues daily in the world’s oceans.
Bycatch is one of the main challenges the oceans face today. Thousands of miles of nets and lines are set in the world’s oceans each day. Modern fishing gear, often undetectable by sight and extremely strong, is very efficient at catching the desired fish species—as well as anything else in its path. A staggering amount of marine life is hauled up with the catch, and then discarded overboard dead or dying.
Fishing industry leaders increasingly realize the need to reduce this phenomenon. Proven solutions do exist, such as modifying fishing gear so that fewer non-target species are caught or can escape. In many cases, these modifications are simple and inexpensive, and often come from fishers themselves.
Despite new technologies and industry recognition of the issue, bycatch is still a major problem. Not only does it cause avoidable deaths and injuries, but the fishing methods can be harmful to the marine environments where they are employed.
While the planet continues to push off making the necessary changes, millions of animals worldwide will face the same ending that this female white shark did and many will also be prevented from helping to add to the populations of the species, which is desperately needed in the case of the great white shark.
While there certainly is no quick solution to ending the problem, you can immediately start making a difference by choosing not to eat sea food at all or eat only seafood you know was caught 100% sustainably. While these will make a difference, we as a society also need to bring the issue into light, revealing the damage the fishing industry is inflicting on the oceans.