One of the most underrated problems of today isn’t above land, but underneath it. Poachers, fishermen, and others commit shark finning every day and it is a brutal practice. Shark fins are in high demand as a food product, often bringing in upwards of $300 per pound. The shark meat isn’t as valuable, so the sharks have their fins cut off while still alive and then are thrown back into the water to bleed out.
What makes this practice absolutely horrifying is the fact that shark fins have virtually zero nutritional content and has very little flavor either.
In many ways, the shark fin is simply a status symbol for people to eat when they can afford to do so. Because many people are able to better afford this “luxury” item, shark finning is becoming more common on a global perspective. Unless something is done about this practice, it is only going to get worse and worse.
Three Facts About Shark Finning You Need To Know Now
1. Up to 100 million sharks are killed every year just so their fins can be harvested, but exact numbers are not known because the practice is illegal in many areas.
2. Sharks are a top of the food chain animal and replenish slowly, which means many shark species could be extinct within the next 10 years.
3. If sharks ceased to exist, the entire food chain balance of the world’s oceans would be in danger and could create mass extinctions within other sea species as well.
Takeaway: The evidence is there that shark finning is dangerous to the world’s future. In a mid-Atlantic study, when 11 species of sharks were virtually eliminated, the other predator species became so prevalent that they virtually destroyed the remainder of the ecosystem to the bottom of the food chain. Despite there being many laws against the practice of shark finning, many countries just don’t have the resources to be able to combat the practice. Some places have taken to outlawing shark fin soup, but this simply increases the prices that shark fins can receive and encourages the practice.
Why Is Shark Finning So Dangerous?
1. There is no age, size, or species limit that occurs in shark finning. Any shark that is caught is a viable animal that can have its fins removed.
2. Over 95% of the shark meat that is caught is left to rot in the ocean despite large regions in the world suffering from chronic hunger.
3. Hong Kong handles up to 80% of the world’s trade of shark fins, with more than 4000 metric tons handled annually.
4. The demand for shark fins is increasing 6% annually with no decreases seen since 1992.
5. Longline fishing is the most significant cause of the reduction of the shark population in every sector around the world.
6. The three locations where shark fins are consumed the most is China, Japan, and Thailand, which is where some of the greatest risks of shark finning takes place.
7. Sharks do more than just control the food chain – they are also guardians of the needed reef systems that are within the world’s oceans. Without sharks, it is entirely possible that coral reefs could even end up dying over time.
Takeaway: It’s the classic conversation of a short-term want being met at the expense of a long-term need. The world needs sharks, but people want the satisfaction – the novelty – of having a shark fin served to them. It might be gelatinous and the broth of the soup might taste wonderful, but at what cost? Here’s the real issue to consider as well: the statistics that you’ll find in this article are the known, reported incidents of shark finning. The real estimates of this practice are much more frightening.
How Bad Could Shark Finning Really Be?
1. The high end estimates of shark finning is that 2.29 million tons of shark biomass are harvested annually just for their fins.
2. Indonesia is the largest contributor to the shark finning industry, contributing over 107,000 tons to the food supply every year.
3. Even though shark fin soup isn’t often served in the United States, is is the 6th largest contributor of shark fins to the food supply in the world.
4. It is believed that up to 4 more shark fins are traded every day than what is actually reported, despite stronger legislation and bans by many countries – including the US.
5. Most people are not even aware of the issues that surround the shark finning industry and have very little knowledge about how fins are harvested.
6. Shark fins may even be dangerous to human health, especially if consumed reguarly. They are believed to contain high levels of methyl-mercury.
7. Despite harvesting bans on shark fins, the sale of shark fin products is legal in almost every corner of the world today.
8. Even though shark fins are thought to promote virility, the actual result of regular consumption is that shark fins can cause infertility.
Takeaway: The dangers of eating shark fins are clear. The dangers of harvesting shark fins are clear. This means the only real reasons why shark fins are being consumed is because of either tradition or status. Shark fin soup is a traditional delicacy that is associated with honor, prosperity, and good fortune. It is typically eaten at weddings and holidays, but it is also considered one of the eight treasured foods of the sea. It symbolizes wealth and since bowls of it can cost upwards of $100 per bowl. With a pectoral fin from a whale shark reaching $100k and a basking shark fin reaching $250k, however, it is very unlikely for shark finning to stop on its own.
What Can Be Done To Stop Shark Finning?
1. Refuse to eat in restaurants that offer shark fin soup on their menus because they are supporting this industry in some small way.
2. Grocery stores that sell shark fin are also contributing to this niche black market. This may even be true for stores that sell just shark meat because sharks are essentially endangered on a global level because of shark finning.
3. Speak about this issue whenever it makes sense to do so in order to raise a greater awareness of the issue.
4. Realize that even though sharks can be scary creatures, they also have a level of magnificence because of their apex predator status.
Takeaway: Sharks provide a needed resource to the world’s oceans and has more is learned about the world, the more scientists realize that everything on this planet is interconnected in some way. When one small sector becomes out of balance, even in the tiniest of ways, it can create unforeseen consequences that are quite negative in nature. The data is already in that a lack of sharks creates problems throughout the entire food chain of sea life. In order to save it, shark finning is a practice that must be stopped immediately.
Why Should You Never Eat Shark Fins Again?
1. To get the same amount of mercury that is in just one shark fin, the average person would need to consume 50 steaks in one sitting.
2. Although shark fin soup is talked about as a long standing tradition, it is one that has only started up within the last 50 years.
3. Even shark meat in animals that are over 40 inches long can produce enough mercury that can cause someone immediate health problems.
Takeaway: Mercury is something that you just don’t want in your body. Is it really worth it to have a status symbol when it ends up killing you? Unfortunately, however, this seems to be the trend of humanity throughout all of its existence. Some even believe the Roman Empire came down primarily because of ignoring the health risks that were proven to develop because they lined their plumbing with lead. If people are able to educate themselves against this practice and understand that there are severe health consequences that can develop, then perhaps a dent in this harmful, brutal practice can finally be made.
Has Progress Been Made Against Shark Finning?
1. Imports of shark fin products into Hong Kong have fallen sharply in the last year, being down more than 35% than the year before.
2. The re-export of shark fin materials from Hong Kong has also fallen by 17.5% in the last year.
3. The total volume of shark fin re-exports fell by a total of over 400 metric tons.
4. Re-exports of shark fins into China, the world’s largest market for this food product, have fallen by 90%.
5. The global consumption of shark fins has fallen by up to 70% from its overall peak figures.
6. Retail sales of shark fins have declined by 60% in many market sectors, with many merchants saying that it is becoming tough to sell them.
7. Chinese regulations have stopped the use of shark fin soup at lavish banquets and the country’s flagship carrier has banned shark fin transports on cargo flights.
Takeaway: Despite the successes, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to conserve the 181 sharks that have reached the endangered species list. Many in China and in the Asia-Pacific region who are of the older generation believe that they will lose status or respect if they don’t serve shark fins at their family’s important events. One banqueting house has developed an alternative menu that doesn’t include shark fins, but it was only purchase 5% of the time in the last year. Until cultures believe that there are better ways to display their wealth and generosity than on the dinner table, the trade of shark fins is going to continue to exist in one form or another. That’s because social stigmas will still be a higher priority than global conservation. Is it more important to look good? Or is it more important to work hard to save a species or the planet as a whole?
Can Shark Fin Consumption Become Socially Unacceptable?
1. When the 1949 Communist revolution in China happened, shark fin consumption fell out of popularity almost immediately.
2. In 2006, WildAid hired Jackie Chan, Ang Lee, and Yao Ming to create a series of public service campaigns that would discourage people from consuming shark fins.
3. In many circles, shark fin soup isn’t being served because there is more to lose in the practice because of awareness campaigns than there is to gain.
4. Many in the younger generations specifically request for alternatives to shark fins because they find the harvesting practice to be repulsive.
5. The WWF has persuaded more than 150 organizations to eliminate serving shark fin soup from their corporate functions.
6. The Shangri-La chain of hotels and resorts has stopped serving shark fins at all of their 116 locations, 50% of which are based in China.
7. The Chinese government has recently announced that they would stop serving the dish at all official state banquets and even China’s largest network is showing that many restaurants in the country are serving fake versions of the dish.
Takeaway: With enough awareness, real change can take place. Although a complete elimination of the practice is probably an unreasonable expectation, the general public can eliminate the positive social stigmas that come with the eating of shark fins and this can virtually eliminate the trade altogether. The time to act, however, is right now because nearly 20% of the shark population is endangered. There aren’t any conspiracies here that are designed to stop people from eating a beloved food product. It isn’t an East vs. West cultural clash. It is a problem that everyone is facing head-on because without sharks, there may not be life. Without life, there is no hope for our children, our grandchildren, or the future of the human race.