As the hands of the clock approach midnight for sharks, The Shark Group announces The Year of the Shark in 2019. The goal of the year-long event is to spotlight the plight of these unusual animals and work towards an international ban on their commerce while uniting concerned individuals and organizations around the world.
Conservation efforts have won some hard battles in the fight to pull sharks back from extinction's horizon, yet they are being killed faster than ever. Shark finning, driven by profits that rival those of the drug trade, on top of rampant overfishing and by-catch, has resulted in sharks and rays being in worse shape than any other line of animals.
Yet their ecological importance is incalculable. A third of accessible species now face extinction, and the enormous loss of animals that has already occurred has resulted in accumulating extinction threat throughout the vast ecosystems of the oceans. Catches are believed to be three or four times greater than those available for studies. Most catches of sharks and rays are neither recorded nor reported and are discarded at sea. In some locations, they are already extinct.
Further, the bad reputation that sharks have been given by bloodthirsty tabloids, movies, and the mass media has erected a barrier to their protection and encouraged their massacre, often in “monster” tournaments, with almost no public outcry nor protest.
So the goal of the Year of the Shark is to work towards winning the same protection for them that has been granted to sea turtles. They, too, were once critically endangered but were protected from extinction by laws prohibiting their international trade. With the shark finning nations opposing CITES listings for endangered sharks, and fisheries’ management failing, The Shark Group believes that only total protection on the International market will work and that their status calls for such protection.
The Year of the Shark will make available a wealth of information about them in as many languages as possible. It will publicize their true nature and the actual rarity of their “attacks” on people to counter the bad press that sharks have been given by the mass media as “mindless killers” ever since the movie JAWS was released. Ten years ago, The Shark Group initiated an action programme that resulted in a milestone for shark conservation worldwide.
The Year of the Shark 2009 started as an idea and then, with the participation of over 80 dive clubs, conservation groups, and NGOs from all over the world, it became a global movement. Its partner group, Let Sharks Live, was created as a network hub to unite all those participating in the event, and its educational material was translated into fourteen languages. There were huge advances in shark awareness and conservation worldwide.
The Year of the Shark in 2009 started a powerful grass-roots movement to publicize the plight of these remarkable and important animals, with the goal of saving them from extinction, and on the eve of the Year of the Shark 2019, the impetus is building again. Shark Group founder Alex Buttigieg says, “Sharks are still being hunted and killed in huge numbers, and in some areas, some species have already vanished. We feel the need to boost our efforts once more and so we announce The Year of the Shark 2019. I
f you feel you have something to share or contribute, then now is the time to act. Let us once again unite and fight for the conservation of these awesome species.”