Sharks have existed on our planet for about 400 million years (that’s 150 million years longer than the dinosaurs) but human activity has crippled nearly all shark species to the point where they may vanish from our oceans within a couple of decades. The cruel practice of shark finning is responsible for the deaths of approximately 100 million sharks every year. Estimates show that 1/3 of the world’s shark species are now threatened with extinction with some populations declining 90% over the last 50 years. We are on the verge of losing one the greatest predators in our world.
So what is shark finning?
Shark finning is a disgusting practice where a shark is caught specifically for its fins. The shark is caught and pulled up onto the boat. While it is still alive, the shark’s fins are sliced off by one of the fishermen. The rest of the body is of little value so the still living shark is then tossed back into the ocean where it will sink and die. It has no fins so it cannot swim which means it will either drown or be eaten alive by other animals. Either way it is a slow and painful death. It is a very cruel fishing practice that is wiping out global shark populations. The fins are worth up to $300 per pound. The meat is less valuable and takes up needed space on the boats which is why they shark’s body is tossed back into the sea.
A Fancy Bowl of Soup
Shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese dish for the elite. It is served at banquets, weddings, and any other gathering where showing your wealth is more important then showing your concern for the ocean. The shark fin has no nutritional value, medicinal value, or taste. The soup’s taste comes from the broth it is served in and the fins only give it a texture. Serving your guests shark fin soup is simply a novelty and a status symbol. Its the Gucci bag of Chinese cuisine.
Why You Should Care
Sharks are apex predators, which means as adults they are at the top of the food chain with no natural predators. They are the regulators of the ocean ecosystem. Without sharks the balance in the ocean shifts and becomes unhealthy. Sharks have characteristics that make them very vulnerable to unsustainable fishing practices such as finning. Most species do not become sexually mature until they are 7-12 years old and some not until they are 25 years old. They produce small litters of pups and do not rebuild populations quickly. So by removing 100 million a year for just their fins we are literally wiping out entire generations and that will ultimately result in the destruction of our ocean’s ecosystem. If you like the ocean or just like to eat some fresh seafood, then you should care about the future of sharks because without them the ocean will die and with that, all those other creatures you find tasty. You need to also consider the painful last moments of life the sharks experience. Being caught on a hook and then dragged onto a boat where they have their fins cut off while still alive only to then be tossed back into the ocean, mutilated and bleeding. The case for animal cruelty is obvious and is just another reason to care about stopping shark finning.
Sharks and Politics
A lot of progress has been made in the world of shark conservation. Bills are being passed to ban shark fin products and new shark sanctuaries are being created. There is still a long way to go because there are countries in this world that simply don’t have the money or resources to enforce the laws. In 2010, Hawaii made history by passing a ban on shark fin products. In 2011, Washington State, California, Oregon, Guam, and the Northern Marina Islands all followed by passing their own bans on the sale, trade and possession of shark fin. Sanctuaries were also established to protect sharks around the world. In 2011, Honduras, the Bahamas, The Maldives and Tokelau created shark sanctuaries for their shores. Hopefully 2012 will see more progress in these new laws.
How to help
The easiest way to help is to obviously not consume shark fin products, but to also not visit or support any businesses that sell shark fin. It is all about supply and demand. If we end the demand for this product, it will kill the supply. Spread your new knowledge to anyone and everyone. Tell them that if they walk into a Chinese restaurant and see shark fin soup on the menu that they should leave and as they are doing so tell the manager/owner why they are leaving. Tell them about shark finning and shark conservation. Education is our best defense to ending the demand for shark fins.