Record-setting shark catch sparks talk of overfishing

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A giant mako caught by a sports-fisherman in Monday has spurred a conversation about declining shark populations worldwide, reports the Associated Press.

The female shark caught Monday off Huntington Beach by Jason Johnston of Mesquite, Texas, weighed in at 1,323 pounds and measured 11 feet long and eight feet around at its midsection.

The shark would represent a new record if the measurements withstand certification by the Florida-based International Game Association. It would smash the previous mark — a 1,221-pound mako caught off Massachusetts in 2001 — by more than 100 pounds.

Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, stands next to a 1323.5-pound Mako shark at the company’s headquarters in Gardena, CA, on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Photo: Los Angeles Times, Genaro Molina

The 1,323.5-pound mako shark on the back of a boat trailer being taken for weighing. Photo: Courtesy Ray Pacheco

However not everyone is happy about the decision to land and kill the shark. The AP reports that “angry callers from as far away as Australia” are complaining about the catch given declining shark populations due to unsustainable practices.

“People should be viewing these as wonderful animals that are important to the ocean and admiring how beautiful they are” rather than “spilling their blood and guts,” David McGuire, director of advocacy group Shark Stewards, told the Los Angeles Times.

Roughly 100 million sharks are killed annually according to a 2013 study published in the journal Marine Policy. Most sharks are killed for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in Asia.

The large-scale decline in sharks has been linked to broader ecological changes, including cascading effects through the food chain. For example, research suggests that the disappearance of sharks in some areas has allowed populations of rays to grow, increasing pressure on shellfish and other prey species.

A Mako shark freezer in a tank at New Fishall Bait Company in Gardena, CA. Photo: Richard Vogel

Kent Williams, owner of New Fishall Bait Company, stands next to a 1323.5 pound Mako shark at the company’s headquarters in Gardena, Calif., on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Photo: Los Angeles Times, Genaro Molina

Related papers:

  • Boris Worm, Brendal Davis, Lisa Kettemer, Christine A. Ward-Paige, Demian Chapman, Michael R. Heithaus, Steven T. Kessel, Samuel H. Gruber. Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks. Marine Policy. 2013.

  • Ransom A. Myers, Julia K. Baum, Travis D. Shepherd, Sean P. Powers, Charles H. Peterson. Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean. Science 30 March 2007: Vol. 315 no. 5820 pp. 1846-1850 DOI: 10.1126/science.1138657

This article was written for and re-posted on Focusing on Wildlife.


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Heinz Rainer

Your report is highly commendable yet does only cover the full extent of the savagery. In West Africa fishermen are found to hack off shark fins from live sharks and throw sharks back into waters leaving them to perish helplessly. Shark fins are used in the Far East to prepare shark fins soup. With an increasing population in Asia the consumption of shark fins faces new demand. Though supplements are now being produced synthetically, shark fin soup retains its importance amongst older generations in Asia. There is absolutely no control by authorities or world bodies to stop this gruesome pactice… Read more »