Sometimes sharks like to eat US when we’re swimming, but without them, WE’RE not going to be able to eat much shellfish. Fewer big sharks in the oceans led to the destruction of North Carolina?s bay scallop fishery and inhibits the recovery of depressed scallop, oyster and clam populations along the Atlantic Coast.

A team of Canadian and American ecologists has found that overfishing in the Atlantic of the largest predatory sharks has led to an explosion of their ray, skate and small shark prey species. Julia Baum says, “With fewer sharks around, the species they prey upon–like cownose ray–have increased in numbers, and in turn, hordes of cownose rays dining on bay scallops have wiped the scallops out.”

Scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks may have declined by more than 97%; bull, dusky and smooth hammerhead sharks by more than 99%, making them almost extinct in Atlantic waters. Baum says, “The extent of the declines shouldn’t be a surprise considering how heavily large sharks have been fished in recent decades to meet the growing worldwide demand for shark fins and meat.”

Sharks are often snagged as bycatch in fisheries targeting tunas and swordfish in both US and high-seas fisheries. As many as 73 million sharks are killed worldwide each year for the finning trade. Shark fins are used primarily for Chinese medicines.

The rays, which can grow to be more than 4 feet across, are especially dangerous because they eat huge quantities of bivalves, including bay scallops, oysters, soft-shell and hard clams.

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