Why are sharks important?

SEA LIFE London Aquarium - Sand Tiger Shark and Fish

Sharks are often the apex predator in the oceanic ecosystem, meaning that they keep the ecosystem balanced and allow populations of other creatures to maintain healthy levels.

As our oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface and houses 80% of life on earth, maintaining this ecosystem is crucial to life on earth. The oceans help absorb excess carbon dioxide and heat energy from the atmosphere, controlling our climate and keeping our air safe to breathe.

Blacktip Reef Sharks are spread through the Indian and Pacific Oceans so their populations affect a large number of habitats.

Sharks regulate the quantity and health of other marine life, helping to keep fish stocks in the ocean healthy. They tend to feed on weak, old and unhealthy fish, which stops the spread of disease among fish populations.

This eliminates a lot of the competition, meaning a stronger gene pool and a more diverse population of sea creatures will survive. Although for some time it has been thought that removing sharks from the oceans would result in a huge increase in fish population – some scientists now think the opposite would happen; and the existing populations would be wiped out by disease.

Being at the top of the food chain, their role is vital to ensure that all parts of the food chain lower down are controlled. For example, algae produces around half of the oxygen that we breathe. Without sharks controlling the food chain balance, the oceans could become overrun with algae, drastically oxygen quantities in our atmosphere. The knock on effects of this could be devastating for all life on Earth.

Find out more at our new Shark Reef Encounter

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