By: Jeff Franks
September 11, 2010
team of U.S. scientists and environmentalists met with Cuban officials this week to discuss a proposed alliance, including Mexico, to protect the Gulf of Mexico's declining shark population.
The meetings were a product of both improved U.S.-Cuba relations and concern that only a joint effort by the three nations that share the gulf can protect sharks, whose numbers are said to be down as much as 50 percent for some species.
"The Gulf of Mexico is one ecosystem, it's not just the U.S. gulf. The shark is a highly migratory fish that moves between the countries and it is troubled," said Pamela Baker, gulf policy advisor for the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, which is spearheading the effort along with the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.
Shark populations have fallen worldwide, primarily due to overfishing to satisfy China's demand for shark fin soup, which is rising as China becomes more prosperous, scientists say.
An estimated 73 million sharks are being killed annually mostly for their fins, the EDF said in a recent publication.
Still unknown, said shark expert Robert Hueter at the Mote Marine Laboratory, is the effect of the massive BP oil spill this summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sharks were able to swim away from the spill, but it drifted into estuaries and coastal areas where juvenile sharks spend their early lives, so damage to the population may not be obvious for a while, he told Reuters on Friday.