Shark experts testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday about the health of shark populations and their importance to coastal economies and medical and engineering research. In addition to showing off some of the latest in shark tracking technology, they warned that a quarter of shark species worldwide are threatened with extinction.
Shark cartilage is being used to help burn victims. Shark skin is helping engineers design airplanes.
And sharks sustain local economies through commercial and recreational fishing and ecotourism.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) agrees that sharks are an important part of the ecosystem.
“Were finding how critical they are to ecological balance in the oceans,” Nelson said.
But shark researchers say all the benefits depend on healthy shark populations.
“Sharks are being just devastated and in fact when you look worldwide, about one-quarter of shark species are threatened with extinction,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, with the Mote Marine Laboratory.
Up to 200 million sharks are killed every year, many just for their fins, which are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia.
Bills working their way through congress aim to ban or further regulate the fin trade.
“When Jaws came out, I was in 8th grade and I was just completely mortified and fearful of ever getting in the water again,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
But since then, Thune says he’s developed a healthy respect and appreciation for the ocean predators. He says Congress must ensure the laws that protect sharks have some teeth,