|An environmental activist holds a picture of a dead and finned shark next to shark fins drying in the sun covering the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong on January 2, 2013.|
STOP SHARK FINNING writes:
Every year tens of millions of sharks die a slow death because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off the shark's fins and throwing its still living body back into the sea. The sharks either starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water). Shark fins are being "harvested" in ever greater numbers to feed the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian "delicacy".
Not only is the finning of sharks barbaric, but their indiscriminate slaughter at an unsustainable rate is pushing many species to the brink of extinction. Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95%. Due to the clandestine nature of finning, records are rarely kept of the numbers of sharks and species caught. Estimates are based on declared imports to shark fin markets such as Hong Kong and China.
As the New York Times reports,
Shark fins are the main ingredient of a soup that is widely regarded a status symbol in Chinese culture and a must-serve at important events and celebrations like weddings. As I have reported in the past, the dried fins sell for several hundred dollars a pound. Often they are sliced from sharks that are then thrown back into the sea to die.
The Chinese NGO Green Beagle recently checked out 124 top of the charts Beijing restaurants and are less then happy to report that only one of them refuses to serve shark fin. Sharks are not a protected species in China and there are no laws regulating consumption of shark fin.
China announced last year that shark fin soup would no longer be served at official state banquets.
In November, The European Union joined the United States, Canada, Brazil, Namibia, South Africa in banning the practice of shark finning, but a growing Chinese upper class has kept demand for the fins high, and the price has reached $300 per pound.
Photos shot in Hong Kong in the New Year show more than 18,000 shark fins drying on the roofs of industrial buildings. The astonishing images present just a fraction of the haul that kills an estimated 75 million sharks each year in order to obtain their highly valued dorsal fins.
The Animal Planet describe shark finning as a "brutal practice."
A shark is caught, pulled onboard a boat, its fins are cut off, and the still-living shark is tossed back overboard to drown or bleed to death. The wasteful, inhumane practice is done to satisfy a demand for shark fins, which can fetch as much as $300 per pound. The meat, on the other hand, is far less valuable, so fishermen toss it overboard to save space for more fins.
The Animal Planet also asks some questions and then answers them:
How Serious A Threat is Shark Finning?
Finning is responsible for the death of between 88 million to 100 million sharks every year. Exact numbers are unknown because the practice is illegal in many places and hauls aren't accurately counted. Because sharks are at the top of the food chain and have few predators, they reproduce and mature slowly. That means their numbers are slow to replenish when a population is overfished. At the rate humans are going, we're set to wipe out sharks entirely in as little as 10-20 years.
What Happens If Sharks Die Out?
Sharks are an apex predator. Apex predators are invaluable for keeping the populations of everything else in the food chain in balance. The oceans depend on them to keep the numbers of other fish and mammal species in check and weed out the sick, injured and dying so that populations of fish stay strong and healthy. Without sharks -- from bottom feeders all the way up to Great Whites -- the balance of the ocean's food chain is in danger.
This is not just a guessing game, either. We've already seen the impact a loss of sharks can have on an ecosystem. According to Shark Savers, a scientific study conducted in the mid-Atlantic part of the United States showed that when 11 species of sharks were nearly eliminated, 12 of the 14 species those sharks once fed on became so plentiful that they damaged the ecosystem, including wiping out the species farther down the food chain on which they preyed. The negative effects trickle out as the ecosystem gets thrown out of balance.
Shark finning is not only cruel, it is irresponsible and unsustainable fishing at its highest degree. In spite of this, it has been close to impossible to attain any international binding management and conservation measures to curtail this practice.