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Sharks are exposed to numerous dangers. What does this mean for our ecosystem?

The SHARKPROJECT campaign 'Ohne Dich geht's nicht' in support of the EU citizens' initiative 'Stop Finning - Stop the Trade' has gained new celebrity supporters, shark fans like Stefanie Hertel, Eva Habermann, Aline Joers to name just a few of the new heroes and comrades-in-arms. We all have the same goal - to make the initiative known in Germany and Austria and to generate a lot of votes. And of course, this can only be done with you!

Many of you have already become active and signed for shark protection. A big thank you from the entire SHARKPROJECT team. The number of votes is rising steadily, but we still have a long way to go. But how can you convince your friends to join? No problem - here you can find reasons why even a (still) non-shark enthusiast should vote.
All participants of the ecosystem are connected by food webs. In our oceans, too, there is this fragile balance of eating and being eaten. But the balance is severely upset by the disappearance of sharks.

If the current trend - namely the steady decline in population numbers - does not change, many of the large and well-known shark species will become increasingly rare and eventually extinct. The consequences are unfortunately already clearly visible - and often in very surprising ways.

A sea without sharks - Part 1

Sharks themselves have few natural predators, so they are at the top of the marine food web as apex hunters. These hunters directly limit the populations of their prey, which in turn affects the prey species of these animals. This effect runs through the entire ecosystem and ultimately influences the entire community structure. More predators - even if it sounds surprising at first - lead to a far greater diversity of species. Studies prove this and show time and again that areas without top predators show much less biodiversity and a lower density of individuals. So sharks are a necessary and important part of maintaining a complex ecosystem full of diversity and life.

Unfortunately, we can already see what happens when sharks are gone:

Dead reefs in the Caribbean

Sharks in the Caribbean are subject to heavy fishing. They have now become a rarity on many reefs. Their loss triggered a chain of population shifts that led to the loss of coral reefs on a large scale. The sharp decline of sharks led to a dramatic increase in their prey - mainly large fish such as groupers. These groupers in turn reduced the number of herbivores - such as parrotfish - on the reef. Without these herbivores, algae quickly gain the upper hand and colonise any open space. As a consequence, corals cannot spread or re-colonise. This overgrowth makes for a homogeneous habitat and minimises the number of hiding places and food for most fish species. A dramatic decrease in biodiversity and species richness is the result.

Healthy coral reefs are a complex, three-dimensional habitat full of diversity for creatures of all trophic levels. Reefs overgrown with algae are often home to a limited number of small herbivores - ecologically, they can be likened to a desert.

So if sharks are so important, we might assume that we humans are taking good care of them? Unfortunately, the reality is - once again - completely different. Catch quotas are steadily increasing, population numbers are nosediving and more and more species are moving closer to extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Support us in the fight for legally defined shark protection in Europe: We can't do it without you, sign the EU citizens' initiative:

Shark (c)Vanessa Mignon | Sharkproject Germany


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