Shark finning is a cruel act which should be banned worldwide. Sharks are the top apex predator of our planet’s oceans, and as an apex predator they control the balance of all marine life by harvesting the sick, weak and dying creatures in its environment.
Picture a fishing boat out at sea. The fishermen are lowering miles and miles of cable lined with thousands of baited hooks. These cables drift on the ocean currents before being slowly hauled back into the fishing vessel. With this type of long-line fishing technique almost every hook will have a sea creature on it and some are more desirable to the fisherman than others. The most common species to be caught are dolphins, turtles, swordfish, tuna and sharks. The fishermen unhook every single carcass, whether it is dead or half-alive. Tuna and Swordfish are cleaned and stored but all the others are considered “by-catch” and are discarded as “trash”, dead or alive.
The exception is the shark whose fins are easily stored in the deep freezers on board the vessel after being hacked from the bodies of the still living animals. The mutilated bodies of the sharks are thrown overboard to die an agonizing and slow death. This horrible and wasteful practice in its own right is bad enough, but when one considers the waste of 90% of this source of protein in a starving world the crime takes monumental proportions. The resale of this delicacy is a very lucrative business when sold in the oriental fish markets.
So, is this process really necessary to provide a cultural delicacy to the wealthy populace in Asia? A bowl of shark fin soup will sell for as much as $400.00! First off, the actual fin of the shark when boiled has no flavor or nutritional value. The broth is seasoned with other herbs and spices for any flavor enhancement. The sinewy cartilage when consumed has no nutritional value as well. In fact recent evidence supports the fact that large amounts of mercury may be present in the tissue of sharks as they are at the top of the food chain and as such will tend to absorb and retain large doses of health hazardous heavy metals such as mercury. World health officials are concerned at the potential cancer causing effects this cultural “fad” may have. In the oriental society a delicacy such as shark fin soup is considered an aphrodisiac or sexual enhancing substance.
“Recent research has shown precipitous declines in many coastal and oceanic shark species in the Northwest and North Atlantic. It has been estimated that sharks have declined by more than 89% in the past 8 to 15 years,” (Wildaid Conservation Organization). Only through a global effort of conservation of sharks can any headway be gained. By-catch reduction, research on landings, trade restrictions and cultural reeducation are just a few of the necessary steps which need to be taken immediately. Shark finning is a global problem and only a concerted international effort can bring a global solution.
As the president of the World Wildlife Federation recently stated “In a world where growing human populations are facing declining fish stocks, throwing away 95% of a valuable source of protein for the sake of an unnecessary luxury is not, or should not be, an option.” Because sharks are the top apex predator of our planet’s oceans, it is extremely important that Shark finning should be banned.