Shark Finning: The Demise of the Oceans Apex Predators

Sharks have risen to the top of the oceanic food chain and remained there for almost 200 million years, until recently, when man began to slaughter sharks for their own gain. Shark Finning is, as the name suggests, the process of removing the fins of sharks and discarding the rest of the body back into the ocean. These lame, finless sharks are often times still alive and eventually meet their demise due to starvation, predation, or drowning due to inability to move (although most sharks do not require being inconstant motion in order to breathe, if water is not passing over their gills, through motion or a method known as buccal pumping, oxygen can no longer be absorbed which eventually leads to death).

So what is the purpose of harvesting a sharks fins? The answer lies, believe it or not, in a bowl of soup. Shark fin soup has been a delicacy in China for hundreds of years and is widely sought after for its medicinal traits. Every year it is estimated that 100 million sharks are killed for this purpose alone, and as the population of China increases so does the demand for shark fin soup. Therefor fisherman are reluctant to halt the practice of shark finning due to the purely economic incentives. When brought to market a pound of fins can easily sell for upward of 500 dollars, whilst the rest of the sharks’ body is of little or no value, explaining why it is discarded at sea.

The practice of shark finning brings up the obvious animal cruelty issues as well as the issue of unregulated harvesting. This unregulated harvesting of sharks, coupled with sharks’ slow growth and reproduction rates leaves many of the ocean’s top predators at risk of extinction. In fact the World Wildlife Fund states that some populations have declined as much as 60–70 percent over the past 30 years.Today many coastal countries have passed bans prohibiting shark finning. Unfortunately these bans are on shark finning not shark fishing, therefore sharks can still be caught which does little to help with population declines. There is also the issue of the largely unpoliced international waters where the practice of shark finning continues due to resource limitations.

The solution to the problem lies in the concentrated efforts of the consumer. Simply not buying shark fin soup or any shark related product is the easiest way to combat the shark trade. By becoming a mindful consumer, you are lessening the economic incentive and are removing the monetary driving force behind the industry. If you live in the western world and buying shark fin soup is already impossible and you are still looking for a way to help out, there are many environmental advocacy organizations that you can join that need support. By either volunteering your time or money to such organizations you will be helping create a global awareness on the detrimental effects of shark finning and helping to persuade the global community to take legal action against the shark trade as a whole.