Every year, tens of millions of sharks die a slow death

because of finning. Finning is the inhumane practice of hacking off 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.

This poor hammerhead shark was finned and thrown back into the ocean to die.

This poor hammerhead shark was finned and thrown back into the ocean to die.

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 1970’s the population of several species have been decimated by over 95% (stopsharkfinning.net).

What is shark finning?

Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is most often still alive when it is tossed back into the water. Shark finning takes place at sea so the fishers have the fins to transport. Shark meat is considered low value and therefore not worth the cost of transporting the bulky shark bodies to market. Any shark is taken – regardless of age, size, or species. Longlines, used in shark finning operations, are the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide. Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored. Shark specialists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed for their fins, annually. One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

A dead Silky shark, longlined in the Indian ocean.

A dead Silky shark, longlined in the Indian ocean.

Impacts of shark finning

First, loss and devastation of shark populations around the world. Experts estimate that within a decade, most species of sharks will be lost because of longlining.

A diagram of a shark, with each fin highlighted in pink where the fins are separated.

A diagram of a shark, with each fin highlighted in pink where the fins are separated.

The massive quantity of sharks harvested and lack of selection deplete shark populations faster than their reproductive abilities can replenish populations. Shark finning threatens the stability of marine ecosystems. Also, the loss of sharks as a food staple for many developing countries. It’s wasteful of protein and other shark-based products. Up to 99% of the shark is thrown away.

Shark fin soup

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia and plays an important role within a centuries old Chinese tradition. Shark fin soup, known in Asia as Yu Tu (fish wing) is traditionally served to honor special guests and celebrations. Immense pressure may be put on couples to serve this delicacy at weddings in order to fittingly honor their guests. The dish is seen as a prestigious commodity and acts as a symbol of high status; one bowl of shark fin soup can cost as much as £100, depending on the quality of the shark fin used. Although the fin itself is tasteless and the soup is flavored with pork or chicken, the fibers from the fins provide a glutinous texture, which defines the dish.

An Asian delicacy - shark fin soup.

An Asian delicacy – shark fin soup.

Shark finning occurs worldwide and is most common in high seas fisheries, hundreds of miles out to sea. Hong Kong is the world’s shark fin trading center, accounting for an estimated 50%-80% of all fins traded worldwide.

The Shark Trust has successfully campaigned on shark finning issues for over a decade and was heavily involved in the adoption of the EU shark finning ban in 2003.

The Shark Trust has many projects and is a great way to get involved in stopping shark finning.

 

References:

http://www.sharktrust.org/en/stop_shark_finning

http://www.sharkwater.com/index.php/shark-education/

What is shark finning?