As Discovery Channel's Shark Week lineup unspools this week, there is no question that viewers will be treated once again to an eye-popping exploration of some of our planet's most magnificent marine animals. This year, I'm pleased to see that, beyond the usual sharks-as-monsters themes, the week includes the birth of shark pups (whose long gestation shares much in common with humans') and natural phenomena like bioluminescence. However, in the coming years I hope the network will build upon such stories to look at some of the conservation challenges facing these extraordinary — and extraordinarily threatened — species.

Sharks, rays and chimeras belong to a diverse group of more than 1,000 cartilaginous fishes. Many are being overfished today, in some instances to the point of extinction.

The global demand for shark and ray fins for shark-fin soup — and additional demand for sharks, skates and rays for meat, cartilage and other products — is driving targeted fishing for those species across the globe, and many other "non-target" fisheries are taking the animals as bycatch. The mortality is excessive, and unchecked for most species, and it's severely depleting populations.

Read the full op-ed on Live Science >>