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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
Lemon shark seen in the wild. Vanessa Mignon

By Sara Amundson

Every year, fins from as many as 73 million sharks circulate throughout the world in a complex international market. They are the key ingredient in shark fin soup, a luxury dish considered a status symbol in some Asian cuisines.

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Nearly $1 million worth of shark fins were seized by wildlife inspectors in Miami, Florida. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. government officials found 1,400 pounds of shark fins worth $1 million hidden in boxes in Miami, Florida, according to CNN.

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This study found evidence of illegal hammerhead fins in 46 out of 46 sampling events in Hong Kong. NOAA / Teachers at Sea Program

By Jason Bittel

Authorities in Hong Kong intercepted some questionable cargo three years ago — a rather large shipment of shark fins that had originated in Panama. Shark fins are a hot commodity among some Asian communities for their use in soup, and most species are legally consumed in Hong Kong, but certain species are banned from international trade due to their extinction risk. And wouldn't you know it: this confiscated shipment contained nearly a ton of illegal hammerhead fins.

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By Fino Menezes

Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.

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Kandukuru Nagarjun / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

Earlier this month a team of scientists announced they've developed a high-tech way to help save rhinos from poachers: They propose fabricating fake horns out of horse hair (which is also composed of inert keratin, like human fingernails) and then flooding the illegal market with their products, thereby lowering the price of powdered rhino horns so much that no one will ever want to kill another rhino again.

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Recently sighted vaquita porpoises. Jay Barlow / Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

By John R. Platt

Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.

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Beachgoers enjoying a pleasant evening on Georgia's St. Simons Island rushed into the water, despite warnings of sharks, to rescue dozens of short-finned pilot whales that washed ashore on Tuesday evening, according to the New York Times.

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The fishing vessel Vema, arrested for shark finning. Sea Shepherd Global

On Sept. 22, local authorities from the Central African island state of São Tomé and Príncipe boarded the Senegalese-flagged, but Spanish-linked, long-line fishing vessel Vema in a joint operation with Sea Shepherd marine conservationists and Gabonese law enforcement officers called Operation Albacore III.

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The Roloway monkey has been pushed closer to extinction. Sonja Wolters / WAPCA / IUCN

The statistics around threatened species are looking grim. A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has added more than 9,000 new additions to its Red List of threatened species, pushing the total number of species on the list to more than 105,000 for the first time, according to the Guardian.

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One species of walking shark. Mark Erdmann, California Academy of Sciences

Scientists have identified four new species of walking shark in the waters off Australia and New Guinea.

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Shark fins drying on sidewalk in Hong Kong. Nicholas Wang / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Starbucks is being pressured to cut ties with popular Hong Kong restaurant chain Maxim's Caterers Limited over its offering of dishes with shark fin.

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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A whale shark at the Georgia Aquarium. istolethetv / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Endangered whale shark fins were found smuggled into a shipment sent via Singapore Airlines to Hong Kong in May, activist group Sea Shepherd Global announced Wednesday.

The fins from the endangered species were hidden within legal fins in a 989 kilogram (approximately 2,180 pound) shipment that traveled from Colombo, Sri Lanka through Singapore to Hong Kong, which is one of the largest shark fin trading centers in the world, AFP reported.

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Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

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It's OK, I'm a filter feeder: Whale shark off Indonesia. Marcel Ekkel, /Flickr / CC BY

By Gavin Naylor

Sharks elicit outsized fear, even though the risk of a shark bite is infinitesimally small. As a marine biologist and director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, I oversee the International Shark Attack File — a global record of reported shark bites that has been maintained continuously since 1958.

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Scalloped hammerhead shark. Kevin Lino / NOAA / Flickr

On his trip to Asia, President Trump ate shark fin soup in Vietnam. While this meal is considered a status symbol, delicacy and a sign of wealth in Asian culture (it can sell for over $100 a serving in restaurants), the continued consumption of shark fin soup has a devastating effect on shark populations around the world.

Shark fin soup is believed by some to have medicinal healing properties and its proponents view its consumption as a cultural right. Sharks rely heavily on international and regional treaties for protections and management measures, and in some countries domestic regulations have been adopted.

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Grey reef sharks at Maui Ocean Center. Joe Boyd / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Hawaiian lawmakers and conservationists are pushing for a landmark law to protect the Aloha State's sharks and rays.

House Bill 808, which outlaws the intentional killing, capture, abuse or entanglement of sharks and rays in state marine waters, passed its first committee meeting on Wednesday. The upper chamber version, Senate Bill 489, secured its first committee approval late last month and passed a second reading on Monday.

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By Nexus Media, with William F. Laurance

Humans are ravaging tropical forests by hunting, logging and building roads and the threats are mounting by the day.

China is planning a series of massive infrastructure projects across four continents, an initiative that conservation biologist William Laurance described as "environmentally, the riskiest venture ever undertaken."

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"Species are like a house of cards, you can't just sort of take one card out of the deck and not expect the deck to crumble," said Dr. Michael Novacek, curator of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, in this reality-driven video by Racing Extinction.

As the video above clearly shows, human activity is directly linked to mass extinction of the world's most endangered species.

Watch as renowned film director and co-founder of Oceanic Preservation Society, Louie Psihoyos, explains how "there's this incredible web where we're all connected, and when we start to lose these linchpin species, the environment starts to fail."

Whale sharks can ingest 200 pieces of plastic per day.

Some of our oceans' largest creatures are being threatened by the tiniest bits of plastic that litter our seas, a new analysis published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution found.

Filter-feeding marine animals such as manta rays and whale sharks swallow hundreds to thousands of cubic meters of water a day to capture plankton to eat. But at the same time, these gentle giants are swallowing up microplastics from plastic-filled waters or through contaminated prey.

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