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Over fishing, Over-finning, and a Declining UK Shark Population

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

Overfishing affects all our oceans in a similar way, leaving ecosystems damaged and putting marine life at risk of severe population decline. But the impacts of overfishing are not exclusive to the target fish, as trawling methods are non-discriminatory and damage larger megafauna like sharks even here in the UK. We are lucky enough to host a charismatic collection of sharks all along our coastline, including such species as dogfish, cat-sharks, shortfin makos, blue sharks, hammerheads (these are very rare but have been spotted off the coast of Cornwall) and the basking shark which is now listed as a vulnerable species. Although this list may be long, spotting a shark in UK waters takes a lot of patience and know-how.

An adult shortfin mako entangled in discarded fishing rope. Photograph: Daniel Cartamil / The Guardian

Sharks mature later on in life and are slow breeders. They don’t produce hundreds of offspring in each litter, and as a consequence they can be affected by fishing across the UK diminishing their populations at a faster rate than they can be naturally replenished.

Overfishing can also lead to shark’s prey declining meaning they have less food to eat. They can also end up being caught as bycatch and then sadly discarded. The horrors of shark finning are, of course, one of the biggest issues sharks face from humans, and both of these practices have led to a decline in the shark population since 1970. This can have severe impacts on the surrounding ecosystems.

Luckily the UK has banned all import and export of detached shark fins, along with any products containing them. There are also fishing restrictions in place; sharks are protected under section nine of the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981 and basking sharks are protected under CITES.

It’s always disappointing to hear how our oceans are suffering due to some of our own actions but knowing the right measures are in place from our country is positive. Remember if you see any sharks out there that they’re our friends, let them have their space and if you’re in the ocean, you’re the one in their habitat not the other way round!

Anything we can do to help always helps:

Donation links to shark trust if anyone’s interested! :

Hi Guys-

Also just wanted to add at the bottom here sorry for my posting absence, the past few months have been a little hectic.

I've been focusing on my Scuba diving training and kickstarting my photography hobby (wildlife photos and blogs about my diving journey all over on instagram if anyones interested in connecting on there!)

Thanks for reading! Izzy :-)

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