Article By Melissa Solorzano
Imagine someone coming into your home, cutting off your arms and legs, leaving you helpless on the ground while still alive and then selling your body parts for money. Sounds a bit gruesome, harsh and extremely illegal doesn’t it? That is exactly what people are doing all over the world to all different kinds of endangered animals, including sharks.
Sharks around the world are victims of a brutal poaching practice known as finning. The definition of shark finning is given to us by filmmaker Rob Stewart on the website for his movie Sharkwater. The website says, “Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass.” Unfortunately, the shark is still fully alive during the process of getting their fins chopped off.
Because of this horrific act, the World Wildlife Foundation says that, “shark populations around the world are in rapid decline. Sharks grow relatively slowly, take many years to mature and produce relatively few young.” The ocean has a low number of sharks as it is and shark finning is constantly lowering their population and increasing the risk of their extinction.
There are over 400 different species of sharks in the ocean and humans are killing them to make shark fin soup. Shark fin soup was created in China around 968 during the Sung Dynasty. The soup is flavored with ingredients that don’t include any part of the shark’s body. Instead, it is made with chicken broth and the fin is only added to give the soup some texture before it is served. Shark fin soup is mainly served at weddings and can cost upwards of $100 per bowl, according to a campaign called Stop Shark Finning.
The soup is at a high demand in China and, as a result, millions of sharks are being killed every year. On the website for Stop Shark Finning, stopsharkfinning.net, they say, “Since the 1970s the populations of several species have been decimated by over 95%.” Still not surprised with these facts? WildAid, another campaign against shark finning, states that, “Fins from up to 73 million sharks are used in shark fin soup each year.” Imagine if 73 million people were used each year to feed wild animals. It wouldn’t take long for the human population to go fully extinct.
In an article on sharks by the World Wide Fund for Nature, they say that, “Despite their fearsome reputation as ruthless predators, sharks are much more likely to be killed by humans than the other way around.”
Sharks have no interests in eating humans. They don’t have hands so the few attacks on humans are mainly because the shark was curious as to what was in the water. Sharks aren’t bad, they are beautiful, curious creatures and sometimes humans aren’t careful when they are around them.
Interested in some shark anatomy? SharkWorld.com will explain everything and anything you need to know about sharks, including how their fins work. “All species of sharks have fins as well. They have two sets of them that are matching pairs. They help them to move along in the water as well as to pick up vibrations that are taking place,” according to the website. Their fins are just as important and as useful as our own arms and hands. Without the support of their fins to keep them moving, sharks end up dying.
Since shark fin soup only requires the fin, fishers don’t bother to take the whole shark because, to them, it is useless. The shark’s body is too heavy to transport and it is not worth much. They don’t care about the age of the animal, what species the shark is or if it is big or small; they are only after their fins.
In hopes to take shark fin soup off the menu, the Stop Shark Finning campaign said, “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.” Imagine the pain and suffering these animals are going through. Unable to swim without his or her fins, the mutilated shark sinks to the bottom where they slowly die and, as mentioned by the campaign, they can also, “starve to death, are eaten alive by other fish, or drown.”
Although there is much more to be done in order to end shark finning once and for all, a lot is being done to initiate a change. Shark finning is starting to become illegal in many countries including, Ecuador, the Bahamas and in Egypt. Unfortunately, SharkSavers.org says, “Despite attempts to regulate the practice, illegal shark finning still occurs and the capacity for enforcement in many countries is lacking… Finning bans are difficult to enforce, especially on the high seas.”
What we can do now is support campaigns like Stop Shark Finning and WildAid who have partnered with media outlets in China to promote the Say No to Shark Fin campaign message throughout the country.
The best way to end shark finning is by spreading awareness, giving these sharks a voice and never eating shark fin soup at a restaurant. Once we completely stop this act of violence against sharks, the population will slowly start to grow and it will help the ocean’s ecosystem become a healthier environment for the world in which we live in.
Feature Graphic Credit: Marisa Berkey