Monday, August 5, 2013

How Many Sharks Will Die During Shark Week?

But every week is a bad week to be a shark
Discovery Channel's slogan for this year's Shark Week is "It's a bad week to be a seal."  But as many as 4,487,671 sharks will be killed during the annual event's six day run.  Most of the sharks will be killed for their fins.

4.5 million sharks killed in 6 days?  But how is that possible, do you ask?  And how did we come up with that number?

There are only two peer-reviewed scientific studies that estimate the number of sharks killed each year.  The first one, Global estimates of shark catches using trade records from commercial markets by Dr. Shelley Clarke et al,  was published in Ecology Letters in 2006. Using trade data from the 1990s, Dr. Clarke and her coauthors estimated that between 26-73 million sharks are killed each year, with a mean of 38 million. For many years conservation organizations simplified this number by saying something like "as many as 73 million" sharks are killed each year, but Dr. Clarke prefers the more conservative 38 million.

The second study was published this year in the lead up to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.  Global catches, exploitation rates, and rebuilding options for sharks by Dr. Boris Worm et al, was published in Marine Policy.  The Worm study took a different approach by adding landed catch data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to estimates of unreported landings, finned sharks, and other discards of dead sharks.  This new study suggests that between 63-273 million sharks are killed each year, with a mean of 100 million.  Most of the shark conservation organizations have updated their materials to reflect the 100 million number. 

The Clarke study came up with the 73 million number by estimating that as many as 200,000 sharks are killed each day, which extrapolated results in 1.2 million sharks killed during Shark Week.  The Worm study estimates 273 million sharks per year, so doing the math that is about 4.5 million sharks killed during Shark Week.  However, using the more conservative 100 million sharks killed per year from the Worm study, the number most shark conservation organizations are using these days, that's about 1.6 million sharks killed during Shark Week.

Therefore the best scientific estimate is that about 1.6 million, but perhaps as many as 4.5 million, sharks will be killed while America enjoys the Top 10 Sharkdown and Sharkpocalyspe.

Do you find that shameful?  Here are 10 Things You Can Do To Protect Sharks.
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