End East Asian Shark Finning

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Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy served in Asian countries which can easily be sold for $100 per bowl. With such a high price per bowl, the illegal Shark Finning industry has been effortlessly sustained by the market demand. Served with animal broth, the shark fins themselves possess little flavor and serve only to provide the soup texture. This frivolous practice has supported the steady decline of the shark population, which according to Florida International University: “perhaps 100 million sharks being lost every year”. By informing oneself on the finning crisis, shark finning can be diminished.

Shark finning is the practice of reeling in sharks and slicing off their fins, hence the name. This is usually done while the shark is alive with a large machete while they flop of the ship’s deck. After harnessing the fins, the fishermen often throw the body back into the ocean where it will rot on the ocean floor. All of this is done for the fins to be used in the traditional dish called shark fin soup. In the past, Chinese emperors would serve the soup to honored guests because it was thought to have medicinal and spiritual value. Regardless, the dish is still relevant in modern day as it is reserved for weddings and important functions, giving fishermen incentive to continue the practice. In early 2013, the Chinese government placed a ban on serving shark fin soup in restaurants and government parties. However, this does not ban the human shark fisheries from catching more sharks. As the ban was placed, shark fin soup increased sales in other locations such as Indonesia. The only way to completely end shark finning is to cut off the demand for more fins.

The shark population itself is a delicate being; sharks are slow developers and many die before reaching the age of maturity. Such as the Greenland shark, it is estimated to live for 400 years. However, they do not reach sexual maturity until 150 years. Additionally, female sharks are pregnant from 9-12 months, the longest pregnancy being recorded by a Green Eye Dogfish at 31 months. This paired with the few pup births (2 pups per pregnancy on average), the shark population has been under attack for decades. As sharks are Apex Predators, meaning they maintain the species below them in the food chain, their patronage to the marine ecosystem control the feeding strategy, diets, and abundance of resident species. The decrease in sharks does not only impact the food chain but the environment as well. Since sharks keep other predatory fish in check, their absence causes a decrease in herbivore activity near coral reefs. Thus, causing coral to die off as bacteria and algae overwhelm the ecosystem.

That being said, China has placed bans on serving shark fin soup and there has been a dramatic decrease in restaurants serving the dish in mainland China. However, this is offset by the increase in consumption in other countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a fraction of shark and ray species are near extinction, including species like the great hammerhead. Regardless, WildAid reported that over 98 percent of Hong Kong restaurants will continue to serve the dish.WildAid chief executive Peter Knights also says: “not only does shark fin have no nutritional benefit but it also can be harmful. The shark’s position at the top of the food chain means it can contain dangerous amounts of mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other poisonous metals.” To summarize, the shark finning practice is not only detrimental to the shark population but wasteful and harmful to humans as well.

The shark finning practice has killed millions of sharks and things will continue that way if nothing is done to stop it. While many countries claim they have bans in place, that does not assure shark fisheries are being shut down or regulated. However, it is not only a fault in the government but one in the people as well. As long as the demand for shark fin soup, shark liver oil pills, and shark teeth souvenirs, sharks will continue to be preyed upon. Unless something is done for these sea creatures, a future without sharks will become reality.

Works Cited:

Wang, Serenitie. “Young Chinese Shun Shark Fin, but Threats Remain.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Feb. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/02/14/asia/china-shark-fin-shift-intl/index.html

“Shark Fin Soup - What's the Scoop?” Stop Shark Finning, 3 June 2013, www.stopsharkfinning.net/shark-fin-soup-whats-the-scoop/

“The Shark Trust - Shark Reproduction.” The Shark Trust - Shark Senses, www.sharktrust.org/en/shark_reproduction

“The Importance of Sharks.” Oceana EU, eu.oceana.org/en/importance-sharks.

Fairclough, Caty. “Shark Finning: Sharks Turned Prey.” Ocean Portal | Smithsonian, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, 27 Dec. 2017, ocean.si.edu/ocean-news/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey.