The silent pain of the ocean: Science identifies millions of sharks with fishhooks stuck in their skin showing the impact humans have on the environment.
The impact of human on nature is enormous – this is truly undeniable. From plastic waste to greenhouse gases, humans have made many animals miserable, dying away and even some have officially fallen into extinction.
Millions of sharks around the world are silently suffering the effects of commercial fishhooks embedded in their skin without any means of getting them out on their own.
According to new research from the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa, fishhooks embedded in a shark’s skin or mouth can remain for several years and lead to major health problems, including internal bleeding and necrosis.
Between 2011 and 2019, the research team tracked tiger sharks in the ocean waters surrounding Tahiti, and found that 38 percent were hooked at least once by a fishhook or similar industrial fishing gear during that period.
‘This is a problem that likely affects millions of individual sharks across the world’s ocean,’ Carl Meyer, an associate researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told Newsweek.
‘Sharks are hooked in a broad variety of fisheries ranging from coastal recreational angling to commercial open-ocean longlining.’
In particular, the most notable in the form of fishing called “longlining” – using a long fishing line, on which many rows of hooks are attached along the line with the number can be in the thousands. The strings are released into the ocean, which may stay there for hours before being pulled back.
This method is often used to catch high-value fish, such as tuna, swordfish … However, many other species also accidentally trapped, including sharks.
‘”In most cases, the fishers do not want to catch sharks—the sharks are simply attracted to the same bait as target species, or to the hooked target species themselves,’ Meyer says.
‘If hooked, sharks often break or bite the line, or are cut loose by fishers without them removing the hook.’
‘After these interactions, sharks may swim away with hooks embedded in their stomachs, throats, mouths or externally around the jaws—or elsewhere on the body—and may also be trailing line from those hooks.’
The hooks can cause anything from minor irritation to internal bleeding as a swallowed hook tears at the shark’s internal organs.
To solve this story is not simple. You won’t be able to ask fishermen to stop using “longlining”, because the livelihoods of many families depend on it. According to Meyer, the solution might be to replace the material of the fishing hooks – from stainless steel to carbon-rich steel, because this type is easier to fall off.
‘Switching to the use of non-stainless hooks is not a panacea but will help to reduce impact by decreasing the time required for sharks and other animals to shed embedded hooks,’ Meyer says.