x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A sea without sharks?

The diminishing number of sharks is a danger to the seas

Sharks have been around for 420 million years. Through cataclysmic meteor strikes and the extinction of the dinosaurs, sharks kept prowling at the top of the food chain. The largest, magalodon, grew 20 metres long and weighed 100 tonnes. Its favourite nosh was whales.

Now shark populations are dwindling. What effect will the disappearance of the apex predator have on sea life?

As reported today, a team of researchers aboard the 83-foot vessel Ekaterina have been searching for sharks in the Arabian Sea. The goal is to tag them and track their migratory patterns and breeding habits. Two weeks into their one-month mission, they managed to tag only a single specimen: a two-metre lemon shark.

They did find a giant three-and-a-half metre hammerhead, but that was hanging in a fish shop ashore.

As many as 100 million sharks are killed each year. Their fins are especially prized in Asia and go for Dh300 a kilogramme. As whales are making a comeback after an international ban on hunting, sharks are still up for grabs. There appears scant sympathy for their fate.

What are the underwater consequences? No one knows, so the shark researchers doggedly carry on their work.