At first glance, the photo below looks harmless, almost beautiful – like we are looking out across a cobbled boardwalk and onto a tranquil harbor. But look closer – those aren’t cobblestones at all, they’re shark fins.

This disturbing image was taken by Paul Hilton, on a rooftop in Hong Kong. He climbed up to the top of this building to document this atrocity. The shark fins that are littering this roof like so many tiles represent the slaughter of around 30,000 sharks.

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Unfortunately, scenes like this are all too common. Scientists guess that, conservatively, 100 million sharks are pulled out of the oceans every year by poachers or as bycatch in the nets of fishermen, but some believe this figure could be as high as 273 million. These sharks are then butchered, their fins are lopped off, and eventually made into shark fin soup.

The shark population has decreased by 60-90 percent over the past 15 years and if something is not done, they could be extinct in 10 years time.

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If sharks go extinct, all life in the ocean will shortly follow – and we need the oceans to survive. Sharks play an essential role in the ocean as apex predators that act as balancing agents that keep the delicate ocean ecosystem in order. Without sharks and other apex predators, the smaller creatures of the sea will wipe out the seafloor vegetation. This vegetation helps to provide around 70 of the earth’s oxygen and is crucial for storing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as well.  So if we don’t stop hunting sharks into extinction, we may be extinct ourselves.

We can help prevent this dangerous tragedy in several ways. One is to support the people, like Paul Hilton, who are fighting to spread this message across the world. You can see more of this work by visiting his Instagram page and checking out Racing Extinction also. You can also help to save sharks by sharing this post and raising awareness about the danger that the species is in. Finally, we can help sharks by keeping fish off our plates. A huge number of sharks are pulled out of the waters as bycatch from the commercial fishing industry. By reducing the demand for fish and seafood, we can all help protect the ocean ecosystem.

Image source: Paul Hilton/Instagram