Why Jaws needs protecting: Bahamas bans shark fishing as THIRD of all species now face extinctionBy Fiona Roberts From the Daily Mail
They're supposed to be the ultimate hunters - but it turns out they're really the hunted.
A U.S. report has revealed shark numbers have declined by as much as 80 per cent worldwide, with a third of all species now threatened by extinction as millions are killed each year for their fins.
It comes as the Bahamas announced it has banned commercial shark fishing in its territorial waters, the latest in a long line of countries anxious to protect the ocean predator.
It turns the island chain's 243,244 square miles of territorial waters into a shark sanctuary, designed to protect the 40 species which inhabit that part of the Caribbean.
Protected: Divers off the Bahamas proudly advertise the country's new ban on commercial shark fishing, as it is revealed their numbers are declining
The move will also be good for the Bahamian economy. The country is one of the world's premier shark-watching destinations for divers, and the industry brings in $78million each year.
It was already a shark-friendly country - 20 years ago it banned longline fishing, stopping sharks becoming caught in fishermen's nets and allowing the predators to thrive in its waters.
Famously, the final Jaws movie was filmed on 'Jaws Beach', on the archipelago's New Providence Island.
But elsewhere sharks are increasingly under threat, according to a new report published by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Sanctuary: Jaws Beach on New Providence Island in the Bahamas. The archipelago's waters are home to 40 different species of shark
It revealed shark numbers have declined by some 70 to 80 per cent, and a third of all species are threatened or near-threatened by extinction.
Part of the reason is food. Each year, 73 million sharks are killed by fishermen to supply a growing market for Chinese delicacy - shark-fin soup.
Their fins are usually sliced off then the bloody carcasses are thrown overboard.
On top of that, tens of millions of the predators are killed every year when they are caught in lines or nets intended for other fish.
Shark-fin soup has traditionally been served in China as a way for people to show off their wealth.
As the country's proportion of rich people grows, so too does the demand for shark fins, which can be worth up to 100 times more than the meat itself.
Image problem: Experts say shark numbers are declining in part because they are now thought of as the ultimate human enemy, after the the 1975 film Jaws
And unlike, for example, tuna fish, which produce 10 million eggs each year, female Great White sharks produce just two to four live young every couple of years, so their numbers can fall dramatically in a short space of time.
Delicacy: The demand for shark-fin soup is growing every year
But in fact unprovoked shark attacks are incredibly rare. Just six people were killed by the animals last year, according to the International Shark Attack File.
Sharks don't even like the taste of human beings, according to Christopher Neff, an Australian shark researcher.
In a new book on sharks by Juliet Eilperin, the Washington Post's natural environment reporter, she says part of our horror stems from the way many species of shark swim with their mouths open so they can breathe.
She writes: 'This is one of the reasons people see sharks as scary: cruising along as they display their sharp teeth, they look as if they're poised to attack at any moment.'
Now many countries are trying to stop their decline by protecting them.
Earlier this year Palau, the Maldives and Honduras banned commercial shark fishing.
Hawaii, which has one of the biggest markets for shark fins outside Asia, has banned all shark-fin products, and California, which also has a huge market for them, is in the process of doing so.