Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Shark Finning Kills 100 Million Sharks a Year, International Commission Fails to Address Crisis

Food
Shark Finning Kills 100 Million Sharks a Year, International Commission Fails to Address Crisis

Kameron Schroeder is currently a student and football player at Duke University, where he is pursuing a major in Environmental Science and Policy. His interest in the environment has come from many days spent enjoying nature, including his favorite trip, scuba diving in Maui, Hawaii with a marine biologist.

Shark fins being laid out to dry before being sent to market. Photo Credit: Gary Stokes / Sea Shepherd

After a meeting in Genoa, Italy on Nov. 17, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) failed to implement a U.S.-proposed measure to eliminate the practice of shark finning. ICCAT currently has 49 contracting governments and, though they mainly focus on tuna, they manage 30 species including sharks. The measure, which would require fisherman to land sharks with their fins attached, would have greatly reduced the number of sharks that could be killed, as fishing boats have a limited carrying capacity.

This is the sixth year a measure against shark finning has been proposed at the annual ICCAT conference, and the repeated failures are beginning to worry those opposed to shark finning. Lack of action has led many to claim that ICCAT is forgetting about the other fish they are supposed to protect besides tuna. The repeated failures of bans on shark finning are suspected to be caused by the continued demand for shark fin soup, which fuels a multi-billion dollar industry in China and other parts of Asia.

Every year, some 100 million sharks are killed to make shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy served primarily at weddings and on special occasions like holidays and birthdays. The sharks are “finned,” a process that involves cutting off all of their fins and then tossing the bodies—still alive—back into the sea. The sharks sink to the bottom of the sea and, because they must swim in order to pass water over their gills, they suffocate. Not only is this process extremely inhumane, but it is destroying our ocean ecosystems.

Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem. They are considered a keystone species, and thus, cannot be replaced by any other animal when removed from the ecosystem. Without sharks to regulate other species of predator fish, the number of prey species in the ecosystem is impacted. This causes a complete disruption of the ocean ecosystem, causing the population of many fish species to plummet, including many species of fish that we eat regularly such as tuna. Sharks also have very low birth rates, as they do not mature in some species, such as the Great White, until 15 years of age, making the process of finning even more decimating to their populations as a whole.

Shark dead on the ocean floor after being finned alive and then tossed back into ocean. Photo Credit: Michael Aw

Once reserved for only royalty, shark fin soup has become much more commonplace due to improvements in modern fishing that make the catching of sharks easier. The idea that shark fin soup is a part of the culture of the Chinese is a widely used argument when defending the process of shark finning. However, the shark fin itself is not even an important part of the soup according to many who have tried it. Chef Gordon Ramsay, an environmental activist and famous for popular television shows such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares,” finds the practice of using shark fins in shark fin soup extremely unnecessary. He said the broth itself tasted extremely good but the fin itself “actually tasted of nothing, almost like sort of plain glass noodles.”

For us to cause such an extreme environmental impact over shark fins, something that adds nothing to the soup it is used in, is outrageous. On top of the environmental impact, many studies show that consumption of shark fins can cause sterility in men and other health impacts due to the high mercury levels in sharks. Though many states (California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington) in America have banned the possession and sale of shark fins, they are still consumed illegally in these states and legally in many other parts of the U.S.

So what can you do? Petition your local legislature and government to implement bans against the possession and sale of shark fins. If you don’t want to do this directly, you can support Sea Shepherd and Fin Free. Also, if you are thinking of serving shark fin soup at an event, refrain from doing so. If that is not possible, simply replacing the shark fins with noodles or some other protein source such as chicken will leave the flavor of the soup intact but eliminate the decimation of shark populations and our ocean ecosystems. If we continue to fish sharks at current rates, they will become extinct within our lifetime. Don’t allow your children to grow up in a world where sharks are only seen in a text book. Do the right thing, don’t consume or serve shark fin soup and be "Fin Free."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

30th Anniversary of the World’s Worst Industrial Disaster

Youth Voices Ignored at Lima Climate Talks

Find Out What State Wants to Bail Out Big Coal

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A resident works in the vegetable garden of the Favela Nova Esperanca – a "green favela" which reuses everything and is subject to the ethics of permaculture – in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Feb. 14, 2020. NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP via Getty Images

Farmers are the stewards of our planet's precious soil, one of the least understood and untapped defenses against climate change. Because of its massive potential to store carbon and foundational role in growing our food supply, soil makes farming a solution for both climate change and food security.

Read More Show Less
Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building. Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

By Shelly Miller

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Read More Show Less
California Senator Kamala Harris endorses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 2020. JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made a historic announcement Tuesday when he named California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

A northern mockingbird on June 24, 2016. Renee Grayson / CC BY 2.0

Environmentalists and ornithologists found a friend in a federal court on Tuesday when a judge struck down a Trump administration attempt to allow polluters to kill birds without repercussions through rewriting the Migratory Treaty Bird Act (MBTA).

Read More Show Less
A spiny dogfish shark swims in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Washington. NOAA / Wikimedia Commons

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

There are trillions of microplastics in the ocean — they bob on the surface, float through the water column, and accumulate in clusters on the seafloor. With plastic being so ubiquitous, it's inevitable that marine organisms, such as sharks, will ingest them.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. NOAA / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Loveday Wright and Stuart Braun

After a Japanese-owned oil tanker struck a reef off Mauritius on July 25, a prolonged period of inaction is threatening to become an ecological disaster.

Read More Show Less