A giant mako shark caught by a sports-fisherman in California 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 Fish 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 fishing practices.
“People should be viewing these sharks 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
- 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
(03/18/2013) A recent study published in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science raises concerns about levels of heavy metals, particularly lead (Pb), present in shark meat, as well as the decline of shark abundance due to global fishing pressures. Sharks are primarily caught as by-catch for other fishing industries. By one account, 70% of the total catch in swordfish long-line fisheries was sharks. Due to consumer demand, this by-catch is sold to Asian fish markets as fin and trunk meat. Much of the trunk and organ meat is used to make fish-meal, which is then fed to farmed fish.
(03/11/2013) Today, for the first time, sharks and rays have won the vote for better protection under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), the world’s regulating body on trade in threatened species. Five shark species and manta rays, which includes two species, have received enough votes to be listed under Appendix II of CITES, which means tougher regulations, but not an outright ban. However, the votes could still be overturned before the end of the meeting.
(03/05/2013) While a new study warns that up to 100M sharks are killed annually, there are signs out of China that demand for shark fin may be on the decline. A study published last week in the journal Marine Policy estimated shark deaths at 100 million in 2000 and 97 million in 2010, suggesting a slight drop in shark killing. Meanwhile reports out of China in recent months suggest an accelerating decline in shark fin consumption. China is the top market for shark fin, which is consumed as a status symbol, typically at wedding ceremonies and business dinners.