A viral video of 15 sharks circling near paddle-boarders in California hides a bigger problem – Business Insider

Great White Shark
great white shark.


The video opens with a close-up shot of a great white shark
swimming in a turquoise ocean. But when it zooms out, the
camera reveals the bustling coast of a Southern California beach.

“You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white
sharks,” says a voice. “The sharks are as close as the surf

The voice belongs to Deputy Brian Stockbridge of the Orange
County Sherrif’s Department, who on Wednesday advised a group of
paddleboarders at Capistrano Beach to “exit the water in a calm
manner,” according to
The Orange County Register

The sharks were seen just south of California’s San Onofre
State Beach, near the spot where a woman was
bitten by a shark
 last month. The area was put under
shark advisory, according to an announcement from Marine Corps
Base Camp Pendleton.

But while it might seem as though sharks are becoming a bigger
threat to people, experts say the opposite scenario is closer to
the truth.

“We may never know exactly how many sharks are out there, or
exactly how many are killed each year,” said David Shiffman, a
marine biologist. “What we do know, from a variety of different
types of analysis, is that many species of sharks are decreasing
in population at alarming rates.”

The causes? Hunting sharks for their meat and fins, and
irresponsible fishing practices.

According to a recent report by the nonprofit conservation group
Oceana, thousands of
sharks are caught and trapped in fishing nets
and other
fishing gear every year. Some estimates peg the amount of this
unintended catch, or “bycatch” at 40% of the world’s total catch,
or 63 billion pounds per year.

One frequently cited survey analyzed
data gathered from fisheries between 1986 and 2000, and found
that hammerhead populations had declined in that time by an
average of 89%, great whites by 79%, tiger sharks by 65%,
thresher sharks by 80%, blue sharks by 60%, and mako sharks by

shark declines chart
Declines in estimated
relative abundance for coastal shark species: (A) hammerhead, (B)
white, (C) tiger, and (D) coastal shark species; and oceanic
shark species: (E) thresher, (F) blue, (G) mako, and (H) oceanic

and Conservation of Shark Populations in the Northwest

In sharp contrast to the way they’re typically portrayed, sharks
also possess a number of characteristics that make them
vulnerable to exploitation, such as maturing late in life and
having very few young.

“We all know sharks are in trouble,” Jennifer
, a geneticist and the director of science and
research for the nonprofit Shark Research
, wrote in a recent blog post for the center.

Shiffman tells Business Insider that although some shark
populations — including great whites 
are starting to recover, declining shark populations spell
trouble for other marine life, since the animals
play a key role
in the health of our oceans.

Sharks are apex predators, which makes them responsible for
keeping dozens of other ocean populations in check, according to
organization WildAid
. Sharks keep food webs in balance,
stabilize other fish populations, and prevent the fish they prey
on from taking over vital sea grass bed habitats. When anything
threatens shark populations, many other marine life forms

“Recent victories in restricting shark fishing and regulating the
fin trade are essential to prevent extinction of many shark
species,” Schmidt said, “but it will take a long time for these
actions to impact such depleted populations.”


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