If you go to the UK coast and look out to sea you may be lucky and spot one of the world’s largest and most spectacular fish. The remarkable bluefin tuna has returned to UK coastal waters after an absence of over half a century and they can once again be seen leaping from the water as they chase schools of fish at the surface.
Sharks are dragged for hours on a rod and reel. They are pulled behind speeding boats and tortured to death. They are strung up like criminals at events to be observed by the crowds. Their jaws cut out and hung as trophies. What crime do sharks commit to deserve this? What harm do they do to the environment that they must be eradicated this way?
We would expect that a huge, charismatic, and ecologically important predator would be celebrated in its own right. Especially if it is also endangered, has evolved some extreme physiological and behavioural adaptations to enable it to excel as one of the oceans’ top predators; this fish even hunts in coordinated packs much like a pride of lions.
These animals are at the top of the marine food chain. They are important keystone predators that can help structure marine ecosystems. Their role as predators can even help with carbon dynamics, keeping carbon locked up in marine sediments, or by controlling the amount of respiring biomass in our seas.