Shark Finning - Dried shark fins in Havelock, Andaman Islands.Shark Finning – The Tragedy Must End

 

It is no secret that human activities contribute to threatening the existence of some animal species. Some of these activities are a simple by product of human overpopulation while others are intentional. Shark Finning is one of those intentional human activities that has been wreaking havoc on shark populations around the world. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has 12 shark species listed on its list of endangered species, and shark finning is a major contributing factor. 

Number of Shark Species on Endangered List

Shark finning is the brutal practice of capturing sharks from the ocean and cutting off their fins. The bodies of the sharks are then thrown back into the ocean alive, without any concern for the shark’s well-being. Once a shark’s fins removed, the shark cannot survive. Most of these sharks will bleed to death or will be attacked and devoured by other sea predators. Sharks may also suffocate to death because they cannot swim without their fins, and they will often sink to the floor of the ocean and die. Shark finning results in extreme suffering for these sharks, and they die in a cruel and painful way.

The fishing crews who perform shark finning do so as a strategy to increase their profits. Since shark fins are the most valuable part of a shark, the fishing crews try to avoid having to carry heavy shark bodies that do not have much financial value. Instead, they slice the fins off and toss the bodies back. That way, they are able to get more shark fins on board their vessels without the weight of the shark bodies. This also increases the number of sharks that are killed on any vessel’s trip. According to the Sea Shepard Conservation Society, shark fins consist of only 4% of a shark’s weight, meaning that 96% of the shark is tossed back into the ocean to die.

  • Amount of EACH Shark that is tossed back into the ocean to Die! 96%

Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty ImagesOne may be wondering what shark fins are used for. Well, shark fins are mainly considered a delicacy. They are used to prepare shark fin soup, a very popular and expensive Asian dish. Historically, the soup was often prepared for high class guests or served at important functions like weddings but is nowadays readily available to anyone who can afford it. The soup is also available in countries outside Asia, including some restaurants in the United States in states where shark fins are not banned. The Sea Shepard Conservation Society states that the soup is actually tasteless and has zero nutritional value, and is only popular for prestige purposes since it is expensive, retailing up to $400 a bowl. In some cultures, the fins are also considered to have medicinal value.

In addition to being cruel, shark finning results in a rapid decline of shark populations. The Shark Trust gave an estimate that some 73 million sharks are killed per year through shark finning. The decline in shark populations caused by this practice has a lot of negative consequences on the ocean ecosystems. Sharks play an important role in their ecosystems. They are predators and help to keep the oceans clean by feeding on sea animals that are deceased or ones that are sickly or defective. As sharks are destroyed at a fast rate, undesirable animal populations will grow unchecked in the ocean. Also, sharks are food for some human populations, especially in developing countries. Those communities make use of the whole shark, not just the fins. However, the wasteful practice of cutting off fins and throwing away shark bodies means that there is a decreased possibility that those communities who depend on shark meat will be able to. These are some of the negative consequences of the wasteful and cruel practice of shark finning.

Number of Sharks Killed Annually

There are many countries around the world that have taken steps to combat the practice of shark finning, although a lot more still needs to be done. The United States, through the 2010 Shark Conservation Act, has made it illegal for vessels to bring only fins into the country. The vessels are required to bring the entire shark, with the fins attached. This means that each vessel can only kill so many sharks at a time because there is limited amount of weight each vessel can accommodate at a time. Some individual states have gone further and outlawed the use of shark fins within their borders. In those states, it is illegal for a restaurant to serve shark fin soup. A few other countries have also adopted similar laws. In an effort to reduce the popularity of shark fin soup, China has banned shark fin soup at official government functions.

There is a lot that we can do to protect sharks and preserve marine ecosystems. It is important for people around the world to lobby their governments for stricter laws against shark finning. These may include a complete ban of shark fin products or a requirement that sharks be brought on shore with the fins attached to the body. Also, people need to seriously consider avoiding shark fin products altogether. This would mainly mean boycotting shark fin soup. If shark fins stopped being profitable, then there would be reduced incentive for the practice of shark finning.  It is also important to join the efforts of conservation groups in combatting the practice and in monitoring shark populations. Conservation groups also carry out educational campaigns to inform people about the dangers of shark finning, and it is important to support these campaigns.

Ultimately, shark finning is a cruel practice that has led to drastic declines in shark populations and damages to the marine ecosystem. It is important for people around the world to pull together to combat this practice and protect shark populations.

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