Shark finning is the abhorrent practice of cutting only the fins of a shark off, all while the shark is still very much alive, and then dumping it back into the water. Because most sharks need to keep moving to breathe, they sink down to the bottom and die a slow and agonizing death.
Studies have long confirmed that fish feel pain. This is done because generally, the only good part of the shark is the fins. They are used in a Chinese delicacy called shark fin soup and fetch a high price globally. Since the popularization of shark fin soup, shark populations have been absolutely decimated by this truly sinister practice. Most people think of sharks as powerful and frightening predators, not vulnerable or in trouble, but the truth is that the ocean's sharks are being driven to the brink of extinction due to the global demand for their fins. Unlike other fish that have hundreds of babies at a time, sharks only give birth to a few babies each year. They are very slow-growing and do not reach reproductive age until they are as old as 10. Because of this, they are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation, and in many places, shark populations have decreased by 90% in the last 20 years.
Although many people view sharks as a danger, only 12 people per year are fatally wounded by sharks, where as humans kill over 100 million sharks a year for their fins. The truth is that we need sharks. Sharks are vital to the health of our oceans. As top predators, they play the important role of keeping the populations of everything else below them balanced. When sharks start to disappear, we see entire ecosystem collapse. This leads to a trickle-down effect that studies have proved negatively impacts human lives and local/regional economies.
We are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction event that our Earth has seen and in the next 100 years, 50% of the planet's biodiversity could be gone. Species are going extinct at a rate 1000 times faster than that of the natural extinction rate, and this is due to humans.
We have a responsibility to protect what is left and to be stewards to the ocean that we rely on for everything from the oxygen that we breathe to the weather that impacts our lives. Our oceans need sharks to be healthy, and so that means that all of us need sharks.
In the United States, only 10 of the 50 states prohibit the sale, trade, possession and distribution of shark fins within state borders: Texas, Hawaii, California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, Illinois and Massachusetts. I recently moved from MA to Georgia, and after walking into a Chinese Restaurant in Atlanta and seeing shark fins displayed right at the door I knew I needed to take action to press for my state to follow in the footsteps of the other 10 ocean steward states that have banned the trade of fins thus far, bringing our country 1 step closer to a fin-free society!