Sharks are brutally murdered, and discarded into the ocean, every single day. Shark finning has decimated certain species of sharks by 95% since the 1970’s. Shark finning means that the fisher people cut the fins off the shark, and while it’s still living, dump its body back in the sea. Generally, shark fins are harvested for shark fin soup or alternative medicines for impotence and other ailments. It’s inhumane and wasteful.
Sharks have been targeted because of huge misconceptions, and the fact that people think sharks are human hunters, fueled by movies and books such as Jaws, that portrayed sharks as vindictive, and cunning. It fueled negative public opinion, and also fueled a huge rush of fishermen trying to catch trophy sharks after seeing Jaws. The author of Jaws was extremely upset by the public reaction to the story and later stated that he would never have written the book if he knew what was going to happen, stated, “Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges”.
There are a little more than 1,000 shark and ray species in the world, and over a quarter of them are threatened with going extinct. Shark fin soup has become more popular in the past twenty years, and it’s typically a delicacy in the East. Bowls of shark fin soup can be sold for $100 a bowl.
Living sharks are a huge addition to the economy in many areas of the world, for bringing in dive tourism, when sharks are missing, obviously the tourism is going to suffer. In Palau, living sharks bring in an estimated $18 million a year because of dive tourism.
Shark kills are largely unreported, so it’s hard to have a definitive number for how many die each year, but the estimate is hundreds of millions a year. According to a study done in 2013, between 6.5-7.9% of all sharks are killed annually, and according to the same study, only 4.9% of sharks can be killed a year to ensure stability of population.
“There’s a staggering number of sharks being caught every year and the number is way too high considering the biology of species,” says biologist Boris Worm.
Some steps to saving sharks are obviously not eating shark fin soup, and also talking to people about what the environmental effects of shark fin soup are. Sometimes people are unaware of the environmental effects their eating choices contribute to, and polite education can go a long way in changing their mind. You can also take the no shark fin pledge, and consider donating to the cause.
A healthy amount of sharks also allows sharks to help cull the sick and diseased from their own, and others populations. This helps stop the spread of disease, and strengthens their population, and other species of ocean life. When the sharks are missing, disease can ravage other animals populations further damaging delicate ecosystems.
Sharks have been part of this Earth for 450 million years, but scientists are estimating they may be largely extinct in the next two decades. Sharks are closer to extinction every single day. For more information about shark finning, watch ‘Sharkwater‘ a documentary by the late Rob Stewart.
Complete bans on shark fins and shark finning must be put in place to conserve the dwindling shark populations. Sharks are a huge part of keeping the ocean’s ecosystem alive and healthy. Sharks are the top of the food chain, and in turn, keep other species of sea life healthy. When sharks are missing, everything is affected.