Shark fins in a bag await delivery at a wholesale warehouse in Hong Kong, where they will be used for dishes like shark fin soup. Conservationists have fought to stop the practice of shark finning.
Credit: Laurent Fievet

Sharks may occasionally eat people, but as new research indicates, we're much more likely to eat them: in fact, around 100 million sharks are estimated to be fished every year, driving many species closer to the edge of extinction.

The new research, published in the Marine Policy journal, estimated that between 63 to 273 million sharks were killed in each of the years from 2000 to 2010, with a recorded catch rate of 100 million in 2000, and 97 million in 2010.

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Researchers also concluded that the sharks were being killed off considerably faster than they could reproduce, leading to a world-wide decrease in population.

Study authors concluded that the international shark catch "needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators."

What are sharks used for? A largely unregulated industry, according to Pew, shark fishing yields fins, meat, cartilage, oil, and other commodities, often much in demand in Asia.

Numerous sharks have their fins cut off and then are dumped off fishing vessels to die as the rest of the shark is of comparatively little value, a practice that has ignited considerably international outrage.

“Biologically, sharks simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand,” said marine biologist and lead study author Boris Worm to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Protective measures must be scaled up significantly in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extinction of many shark species.”

Bangkok will host a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting that's expected to attract 177 governments in Bangkok, and will consider enacting international protection for hammerhead sharks, oceanic white tail sharks, and porbeagle sharks, reports Reuters.

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