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This Shark Week, let's love an animal that scares us

As Shark Week appears on the Discovery Channel for the 25th year, I have to wonder whether in another 25 years, it will air on The History Channel instead. After more than 400 million years on planet Earth, sharks are being decimated by overfishing and the lucrative trade in shark fins.

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Discovery Communications headquarters is decorated with a great white shark during its popular series 'Shark Week' in 2006. Op-ed contributor Anna M. Clark writes: 'Americans may not be able to stop the huge demand in China, but they can cut off supply and curb demand in their own corner of the world.'

Cameron Davidson,Discovery Channel/PRNewsFoto

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This week marks the 25th airing of one of Discovery Channel’s best-loved educational series, Shark Week. But as human greed drives sharks toward extinction, I have to wonder if, 25 years from now, Shark Week will run on The History Channel instead.

After more than 400 million years on planet Earth, sharks are being decimated by overfishing and the lucrative trade in shark fins. Shark-fin soup, a delicacy symbolizing wealth and status in China, now sells for as much as $100 a bowl in that country. Fishermen cut off the fins, then toss sharks back into the ocean where they bleed to death.

Humans take the lives of approximately 73 million sharks a year, and threaten one-third of shark species with extinction. Brutal reports of thousands of lifeless, finless sharks found on the ocean floor, such as this report about the Colombian coast, reveal the recklessness of turning nature into a commodity.

Because sharks mature late and produce few young, they cannot possibly reproduce at the same rate at which we kill them. By contrast, shark attacks only lead to about 6 to 12 reported deaths of humans per year globally.

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