The Deadliest Predator of All (Hint: It's Not Sharks)

Recently, a group of surfers allegedly posted a bogus shark-attack sign at one of the most popular surf spots in Santa Cruz in an effort to warn off nonlocals, but as PETA likes to point out, sharks aren’t the most dangerous predator lurking in the swells:

Humans are far more deadly to sharks (and other sea life) than the other way around. After a 1,300-plus-pound shortfin mako shark was killed by a group of men filming a show for the Outdoor Channel, PETA staffer Paula Moore pointed out in a letter to the editor in the Los Angeles Times: “While there are a handful of well-publicized shark attacks around the world each year, humans pose the much bigger threat. We kill an estimated 100 million sharks every year ….”


One hundred million adds up to between 6.4 and 7.9 percent of sharks of all species killed annually, which is more than the 4.9 percent that is thought by researchers to be sustainable. Sharks are especially at risk because it takes them a long time to reach reproductive age. Shortfin makos, for example, don’t start breeding until they are between 8 and 15 years old. The female mako shark who was killed off the California coast was thought to be more than 15 years old and may have recently given birth. Shortfin makos are not yet endangered but are considered to be “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In addition to sharks, other fish have been annihilated by overfishing. The population of the world’s large predatory fish, such as tuna, swordfish, and cod, has been decimated by 90 percent since 1950. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, a whopping 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks for which data are available are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted.

Bearing these statistics in mind, it looks like the most dangerous predators of all aren’t in the water at all, but rather are lined up on the fishing pier or at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

Image Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr