Miami / Sharks are “functionally extinct” in 20% of the world’s coral reefs, according to the Global FinPrint project, which since 2015 has analyzed more than 15,000 hours of recording in 371 of these ecosystems.
“In these reefs the sharks are functionally extinct, although it is probable that a few specimens remain and that we did not see them, this assumes that there is such a low level that they are not contributing to the ecosystem as they normally would,” Demian Chapman ,Professor at the Florida International University (FIU) and participant in the initiative, explained to EFE
The first conclusions of the project, whose objective is to quantify threatened species and in which five universities and the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences participate, were released together with incredible images of the largest marine predators.
Using underwater cameras in 58 countries, Global FinPrint recorded the marine life of coral reefs and obtained data not only on the shark but also on other species such as stingrays and sea turtles.
Chapman indicated that this shortage of sharks in some places was “shocking” since they estimate that before the human presence “it was in all the reefs”, but the populations have been reduced mainly by fishing exploitation.
Virtually no shark was found on the reefs of the Dominican Republic, Kenya, Vietnam, Qatar, the French West Indies, and the Netherlands Antilles.
In those places, only three sharks were recorded in more than 800 hours of recording.
Thanks to the “Max In” technique, which consists of counting the maximum number of sharks that appear on the screen every hour, it was also shown that in countries where fishing restrictions or conservation measures have been implemented, such as In the case of the Bahamas, there was a greater population of sharks.
This country is one of many that benefit from the existence of sharks in its waters. The Bahamas receives $ 120 million each year from tourism related to these living things.
This is not the only place where this symbiosis occurs and, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, some 500 million people in the world depend on the coral reefs where these creatures live.
The project and the recommendations of this group of scientists have also served to create shark sanctuaries in places where this species was previously threatened, as has happened in Belize, the former British colony in Central America.
On the other hand, the study indicated that in places that are densely populated, there is little government control and aggressive fishing gear, such as on the Jamaican or Colombian coast, the sharks were in much smaller numbers.
However, Chapman reiterated that the data obtained “demonstrates that it is not necessary to totally prohibit fishing” and that “if the restrictions with these protected areas are combined it can mean a positive change for this species”.
“This is very important because many of the nations in the world are willing to ban fishing, so by imposing these restrictions we have a wide variety of tools and choose the best one for sharks and the population,” he added.
Public relations for sharks
Chapman has spent decades studying these “fascinating animals,” who “have always had a bad image.”
Many people are afraid of them because they associate them with attacks on human beings, so this study is a way for them to “have public relations workers,” he stressed.
The International Center for Shark Attacks (ISAF) recorded a total of 64 unprovoked shark attacks in 2019, a year in which there was a notable decrease in the number of these incidents but the average number of deaths caused by shark was maintained. .
Although the attacks are a matter of concern, this expert reiterated that “the reality is that there is a greater problem than that of the loss of this species.”
Although this 400-million-year-old species has survived mass extinctions throughout history, Chapman believes that “we must act now” to preserve the number of sharks and that they can survive the scourges of climate change or being human. (July 24, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)
The related news on video (January 2018):