Shelly Clarke, whose research has been vital to estimating the number of sharks killed yearly to supply the fin trade, has written a cogent article on why it’s important to use accurate numbers to support conservation efforts. Shelly makes a strong and clear case:
I’m inevitably interrupted at this point by the question “Who cares about the actual number anyway?” We all should. First, we should seek to ground our positions on these issues in the best available science. Selective and slanted use of information devalues and marginalizes researchers who are working hard to impartially present the data. Second, unless our aim is to prohibit killing all sharks worldwide, we need to know how many sharks can be killed without damaging the long-term sustainability of shark populations and ocean ecosystems. These numbers are hard to calculate and getting accurate estimates of current shark catches, using fin trade data if necessary, is incredibly important to fisheries management. Third, exaggeration and hyperbole run the risk of undermining conservation campaigns. Presenting a high but scientifically unsubstantiated number like 100 million can discredit otherwise valuable advocacy for better resource management and monitoring.
The whole article over at SeaWeb is well worth reading. For more on shark catch estimates, you can also see "How Many Sharks Are Caught Each Year?" where we examined the discrepancies between various estimates and why they arise.