Shark finning is the action of removing the fins of sharks and discarding their carcasses back into the ocean (As shown in the photo at the right: David Vogt Photography). The majority of the time the sharks are still fully aware and alive being forced to die of suffocation as they sink to the bottom of the Ocean. Sharks must constantly swim to keep oxygen flowing within their gills, so as their fins that help them swim and guide through the waters are taken, they have no choice but to sink. The fins are then taken back to land and sold, the majority of the time for shark fin soup, a custom with assumed nutritional value (As shown in Photo at bottom right: Alex Hofford Photography)
Unfortunately, this widespread belief is far from the truth as sharkfin (basically cartilage that gives the soup texture) has no real health values. Overfishing and high demand for the body part of no nutritional value has caused for the populations of the Elasmobranchii (fish) species to deplete. With approximately 273 Million killed annually by humankind for their fins. Rapidly, the 14 species mainly being exploited are on the brink of total extinction leaving all other species at high risk of becoming threatened. Studies show that over the past 30 to 40 years as the demand has begun to increase the populations have declined drastically including some fisheries collapsing. As a result of this overfishing, the populations have also seen a decline in their biodiversity; surveys showing significant size differences between the years of the 1950s to 1990s. This suggests that the overexploitation of sharks has left few mature adults in these populations leaving juveniles and younger.
What are the dangers of shark finning and why should you care?
Sharks play a crucial part in keeping the food webs and ecosystem balanced and overall healthy by eating efficiently, preying upon older generations within populations. They groom the populations to a manageable and safe size making sure none become too populous to destroy the surrounding ecosystem. This also prevents disease outbreaks from older generations do not impact younger generations within the specific species. In addition, preying on these weaker individuals strengthens the gene pools of the prey species creating a reproductive outcome of healthier generations. These apex predators are considered “keystone” species by scientists, meaning that removing them could cause the whole structure of the ecosystem to collapse, in return causing a domino effect of other species becoming threatened by extinction. As for the environment, sharks use intimidation to regulate the behavior of other species preventing them from overgrazing vital habitats. A number of specific studies also demonstrate that depletion of shark populations result in commercial fisheries collapsing, including such that maintain the health of coral reefs
In the end, where shark populations are limited, the marine ecosystem loses its balance and we can see destructive impacts being a final result. Sharks are mutilated for their fins for shark fin soup, a food that has become a cultural value but is not in any way important for human health or survival. However, by removing sharks, our environment and economics involved in the responsible tourism of marine wildlife in some countries will change drastically. We cannot survive without them. Sharks have survived for 450 million years, yet may be gone within the next few decades unless we choose to stop the unnecessary slaughter and exploitation. Do you want the destruction of the shark species and ocean ecosystems to be the legacy we leave our children, no, you don’t? So raise your voice and make a positive change one way or another.
What can you do to help?
Many individuals, groups, and organizations work to end the exploitation of marine wildlife and their ecosystems. Some larger organizations are specifically working to ban the trade of shark fins. Being aware of such laws trying to be placed, is crucial to support and share to give them a place within our society. Researching other websites or
individuals is important to find more information to help in the following ways listed below:
- Most importantly Do not consume shark fin soup! Tell your friends and family about the fin soup to keep them from supporting this destructive industry. If you live near a restaurant that sells the soup, politely talk to the owner about shark finning then ask them to consider removing the dish from their menu. Many are simply unaware of what eating habits can affect the environment and other species. (Photo at right)
- Supporting organizations – There are numerous organizations working to protect marine wildlife and their habitats including Sea Shepherd, Wild Aid, and others listed below. Supporting such organizations by helping to spread their goals and financially aiding them in their missions is crucial to saving such wildlife and ocean environments.
- Social networking and raising awareness is also a crucial factor in gaining attention towards these industries and plight of populations. This can be done by publicly posting information about such topics, creating websites, or accounts on social media to spread the word. Ignorance and apathy among the public are truly what causes such destructive actions to take place.
- Wildlife Tourism – While leaving species live in their habitats without any human contact may seem like the smartest and most respectful notion, this may not be the case. If local communities realize that shark and other wildlife tourism, such as shark diving or whale watching, could bring in income then this, in fact, starts the conservation. On your next vacation, support locally owned wildlife tourism as long as the animals are not being exploited, forced, or harmed in the processes.
- Active Awareness – Speaking in public is a great way to not only build confidence and leadership skills but also spread the word about urgent topics like shark finning. Try it out by finding places you would be able to speak such as in your community, school, or church making sure you are correctly informed. Other ways to actively help end the exploitation of sharks is to peacefully protest in front of companies that support the trade (if any in your area). Organize a protest with friends, family, or members of your community by following all law guidelines within your specific area (basically, make sure you won’t be in any trouble). Check out Stop Shark Finning for groups against the practice in your area to get involved actively!
- Posters and Tees – Put up posters in your community or school hallways to raise awareness. By gathering a crowd, a group against shark finning in your community could be started. Wearing shirts that also share the word could be a great and easy idea. (Photo at right: Rob Allen Photography)
- Petitioning – Write and sign petitions working to ban the trade and industry of shark finning by signing and sharing the specific petition.
- Sending Emails – Contact businesses or websites that promote the trade and exploitation of sharks by politely emailing them about the statistics and realities of the industry with alternative industries to support.
- Contact influential people – There are many who are able to influence large crowds of people through their social media networks or shows. Contacting such people through Emails, Calls, or other ways of messaging could help to close the gap of ignorance about the topic. Try Celebrities, Media workers, Newspaper Editors and journalists, large non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, politicians, etc. Anyone who has a large audience and who you think is able to make a difference.
- Contact News Stations – If there is a typical story on a news station about shark attacks in their area, try contacting them to make a new story enlightening the public about true shark behaviors and the plight that shark finning causes for populations. While sharks kill only around 10 people annually, humans kill up to 3 sharks EVERY second.
- Use your imagination – Do you have an idea to spread awareness, such as using your job or artistic skills? There are many other unique ways for everyone to help in this fight to end extinction, animal exploitation, and environmental destruction. Do your part in a way you enjoy!
A start to getting involved would be reposting this article by copying the link and sending it to your friends, families, and followers. Let’s end ignorance and apathy by educating the world on these important topics together!
List of Organizations to support:
- The Humane Society International
- Defenders of Wildlife
- Shark Angels
- Finish Finning – Adopt a Shark
- Project Aware
- Oceanic Defense
- Predators in Peril
- Shark Alliance
- Shark Savers
- The Shark Trust
- White Shark Trust
- And possibly others…