Stop Shark Finning, The Cruelest Fishing Practice of Them All Today
While Shark Fin Soup has been a delicacy in China since the Ming Dynasty(1368–1644), only consumed by the elites, in the last thirty years it has become a status symbol in a China experiencing a rapid upsurge of wealth creation. Wild Aid reports that the availability of shark fin soup has grown exponentially since the 1980s and that upwards of 300-million people now have access to the dish. But that popularity is not being tempered with any sort of conservation program, despite the protected status of sharks, and 70 to 80 million sharks are killed annually just for their fins.
Numbers are one thing and cruelty is quite another. Since the rest of the shark has little economic value, sharks are caught and de-finned while still alive and thrown back into the waters to die a painful, immobile death or left to suffocate on deck. Shark fins are big business and the trade is finally being outlawed or restricted. Hong Kong is the main transit point into China and ports around the world, many in the United States, are heavily engaged in the process.
Time has come to stop this cruel practice with the establishment of the Global High Seas Marine Preserve, which will ban commercial and industrial fishing on the high seas and require the maritime military forces industrialized to patrol for illegal fishing. Sharks, tuna and whale populations, the top-of-food-chain-marine predators, are under severe pressure and collective action is required to save all ocean wildlife and the ecosystems they support. Billions depend on the oceans for food and economic livelihood and total collapse will mean starvation, economic depression and war.
If you are a guest of honor they give you a bowl of shark fin soup, says Johnson Toribiong, Palaus president, sometimes they catch sharks illegally, sometimes they catch tuna illegally. This tiny island has warned the world it will protect its natural resources, but with only one patrol boat, can the shark sanctuary ever be enforced? Shark activist Dermott Keane believes they can’t do it alone; Palau needs assistance in enforcing this sanctuary from the United States and other industrialized nations who must forward to save ocean wildlife from extinction.
Shark Alarm – Palau
Shark Finning, a group that has taken up the noble cause of stopping this senseless shark slaughter with a number of activities and resources. Check out their cool gear by clicking the shirt logo, right, and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is shark finning?
Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonizing death. Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown, because sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy.”
Demand for shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years due to the increased prosperity of China and other countries in the Far East. Shark fin soup, which can easily cost $100 a bowl, is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Because there is such a high demand for shark fins, traders can make a lot of money from shark fin, but it is the restaurant owners who really “make a killing” in this foul trade.
Fishermen are only interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and takes up too much space in the hold. It also contains urea, which turns to ammonia once the shark has died and contaminates other fish.
Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous bulk for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes.
What effect has shark finning had on shark populations?
To put it bluntly, shark populations have been decimated. Globally. Tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature. Shark populations take a long time to recover as they can take over seven years to reach maturity and they only raise one or two pups a year. Twenty species of sharks are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In a few years many species of shark could become extinct if action is not taken immediately. Populations of many shark species have fallen by over 90%. Since 1972 the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93%, tiger sharks by 97% and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99%.
What will happen to the oceans of sharks become extinct?
The consequences of the decline in shark populations on ocean life are immense. The large shark species are “apex” predators, they are ecological stabilizers, once they are gone, all hell will break loose. For example, along the U.S. East Coast where large sharks such as black tip and tiger sharks have been virtually eliminated, there have been declines in shellfish numbers and a reduction in water quality (shellfish filter sea water). Populations of small sharks, rays and skates have increased rapidly, consuming shellfish at an unsustainable rate. If you remove apex predators from an ecosystem the result is the same as removing the foundations from a building – total collapse.