Shark Finning: A Cruel Practice

shark finning

Shark finning involves the inhumane practice of cutting off the fins of sharks and discarding the remainder of their bodies, often while the sharks are still alive. This brutal process is driven by the high demand for shark fins to make shark fin soup, a traditional delicacy in some Asian cultures. Shark finning poses a significant threat to global shark populations and marine ecosystems. However, concerted efforts to combat this issue offer hope for the future.

The Harsh Reality of Shark Finning

  • Shark finning is an extremely wasteful practice - the fins account for only about 5% of a shark's total weight, yet finners toss the rest of the shark's body back into the ocean once the fins are removed. This means that per pound of fin produced, 20 pounds of shark are wasted.

  • Without their fins, sharks cannot swim and regulate their buoyancy. Most die from suffocation or predation. Shark finning is an incredibly inhumane practice.

  • Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year for their fins. Some shark species such as hammerheads, oceanic whitetip, and thresher sharks are facing extinction due to the shark fin trade.

  • Shark finning disrupts marine ecosystems. As apex predators, sharks play an important role in regulating the populations of other marine life. The disappearance of sharks has ecological consequences.

Cultural Drivers of Shark Fin Demand

  • Shark fin soup is considered a luxury item and a status symbol in some Asian cultures. It is often served at weddings, banquets, and business meetings.

  • The high price of shark fins, which can cost $400 per pound, drives fishers to engage in shark finning.

  • Misconceptions about shark fins' health and medicinal benefits also fuel demand. However, there is no scientific evidence for claims that shark fins can cure cancer or boost sexual potency.

  • Estimates value the global shark fin trade at $400 million to over $550 million annually. Hong Kong handles at least 50% of the global fin trade.

Efforts to Combat Shark Finning

Legislation Many countries have banned shark finning in their waters and prohibited the trade of shark fins. The U.S., the EU, Australia, Canada, and others have regulations.
Awareness campaigns Groups like WildAid work to educate consumers and debunk myths about shark fins' benefits through media campaigns. Their message has reached up to 1.5 billion people.
Airline bans Major airlines including Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and United no longer transport shark fins as cargo. This limits the shark fin trade.
DNA testing New DNA barcoding technology helps identify shark species from their fins, enabling better monitoring and restrictions.
Sustainable fishing Promoting careful release of live sharks, using shark bodies fully, quotas, and other sustainable fishing methods preserves shark populations.
Grassroots activism Anti-shark finning campaigns have gained momentum globally thanks to grassroots efforts and engaged citizens.

"The path to ending shark finning must comprise global awareness, impactful education, smart policy, and inspired activism. Together, we can protect sharks from this brutal practice." - Cristina Zenato, shark conservationist

Ongoing Threats Facing Sharks

  • Overfishing remains a concern. Even when shark finning is banned, sharks may be overfished for their meat, liver oil, and other body parts.

  • Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing accounts for up to 26 million sharks killed annually. More monitoring and enforcement are needed.

  • Bycatch continues to threaten shark species. Sharks caught accidentally by fishing vessels targeting tuna and swordfish are often killed or left to die after release.

  • Climate change and habitat destruction also endanger shark populations already impacted by overfishing. Coral reef loss, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification degrade shark habitats.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic slowed consumer demand for shark fins, but trade is rebounding as restrictions ease. Continued awareness and policy efforts must persist.

reef shark swimming on the reef

Looking Ahead: Building a More Sustainable Future

  • Education about sharks' importance and the cruelty of finning can transform attitudes and reduce consumer demand. Children's education is key.

  • Innovation such as shark ecotourism, shark sanctuaries, and technological monitoring provides alternatives to finning. Ecotourism makes sharks more valuable alive than dead.

  • International agreements and knowledge sharing between countries creates unified standards for protecting migratory shark species across geopolitical lines.

  • Grassroots activism is vital to keep up pressure on governments and corporations. Social media empowers everyday citizens to have an impact.

  • Persistence in ongoing campaigns is essential, even as progress occurs. Hard-won regulations must continue to be enforced, and awareness reinforced.

While shark finning persists as a threat, the actions of governments, businesses, NGOs, and ordinary citizens offer hope that we can safeguard the future of sharks and our oceans. United, we can drive change.

 See my article from 2010 on the shark finning issue: https://www.fullthrottlemedia.com/2010/06/shark-fins.html


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