Thirty-two percent of the sharks and rays that live in the open ocean were classified as "threatened" this year by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Scientists fear that ocean ecosystems could be knocked out of whack by the loss of their "apex" predators.
The nine shark survivors offer a wildly counterintuitive story. For them, the terrifying seconds they spent as prey have created a forgiving, even admiring, bond with the ocean's great hunters.
They are here to lobby for a Senate bill that would outlaw shark "finning" -- a practice in which fishermen slice off a shark's fin and toss the rest of its carcass overboard -- in U.S. waters.
The bill has already passed the House and has the support of federal fisheries managers, who say it would make existing shark protections easier to enforce.
It will not save the world's shark populations; scientists say finning is largely done by overseas fishing crews. In the United States, it is already outlawed in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf, and is largely curtailed in the Pacific.
Mike DeGruy, 57, a marine biologist who was bitten by a grey reef shark while diving in the Pacific Ocean atoll of Enewetak in 197, said his experience gave him an appreciation of what it is like to be a shark -- seriously injured and left helpless in the water.
"We've been finned," he said of his injuries. "It's not a good thing."