Shark finning

What is Shark Finning?

Shark finning is the practice of slicing off the shark’s fins while the shark is still alive and throwing the rest of its body back into the ocean where it can take days to die what must be an agonising death.

Some sharks starve to death, others are slowly eaten by other fish, and some drown, because sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen.

Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian “delicacy”.

Demand for shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years due to the increased prosperity of China and other countries in the Far East. Shark fin soup, which can easily cost $100 a bowl, is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence.

Because there is such a high demand for shark fins, traders can make a lot of money from shark fin, but it is the restaurant owners who really “make a killing” in this foul trade.

Fishermen are only interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and takes up too much space in the hold. It also contains urea, which turns to ammonia once the shark has died and contaminates other fish.

Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous bulk for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the sufferring that finning causes.

3 sharks are being killed every second so people
can use their fins to make shark fin soup.

What effect has finning had on shark populations?

To put it bluntly, shark populations have been decimated. Globally. Tens of millions of sharks are slaughtered every year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup; at least 8,000 tonnes of shark fins are shipped to restaurants around the world.

Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Shark populations take a long time to recover as they can take over seven years to reach maturity and they only raise one or two pups a year.

Twenty species of sharks are listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). In a few years many species of shark could become extinct if action is not taken immediately.

Populations of many shark species have fallen by over 90%. Since 1972 the number of blacktip sharks has fallen by 93%, tiger sharks by 97% and bull sharks, dusky sharks and smooth hammerheads by 99%.

What will happen to the oceans of sharks become extinct?

The consequences of the decline in shark populations on ocean life are immense. The large shark species are “apex” predators, they are ecological stablisers, once they are gone, all hell will break loose.

For example along the US East Coast where large sharks such as black tip and tiger sharks have been virtually elimated, there have been declines in shellfish numbers and a reduction in water quality (shellfish filter sea water). Populations of small sharks, rays and skates have increased rapidly, consuming shellfish at an unsustainable rate.

If you remove apex predators from an ecosystem the result is the same as removing the foundations from a building – total collapse.

Stop shark finning

What You Can do to Stop Shark Finning

Sharks are being driven to the brink of extinction due to a huge increase in demand for their fins over the last 20 years or so.

If you are concerned about this, there are many ways you can help to spread the message about the plight of sharks and encourage others not to consume shark fin soup (or any other shark products).

Below are a few suggestions.

1. Most importantly, don’t eat shark fin soup! Talk to your friends about shark fin soup and remember: Friends don’t let friends eat shark fin soup! Don’t patronise restaurants that serve the dish. If you live near a restaurant that serves shark fin soup, talk to the owner about shark finning and politely ask them to consider removing shark fin soup from the menu. Very often people are unaware of the effect that their eating habits have on the environment. Sign up to the “no shark fin” pledge. Download these information cards from the Humane Society International to hand to the owner/manager.

2. There are many organisations fighting to save marine wildlife such as Sea Shepherd, the Humane Society International and Wild Aid. They all need as much support as they can get, especially financially. There are many more organisations listed in the links section.

3. Sign up to the mailing list and take part in the campaigns. Sometimes it feels like sending an email, writing a letter or making a phone call won’t change anything – but if several people do it, it does make an impact. The more of us there are, the harder our message hits home – so do your part – it only takes a few minutes.

4. Social networking – spread the message on the internet. Post the banner for StopSharkFinning.net on your social network site page or website. Start up your own website or facebook page (or LiveJournal, Twitter, posterous, whatever!). And make sure you join us on Twitter and Facebook (currently over 45,000 likes).

5. If local communities realise that they can make more money by conserving sharks than by killing them, then we will ensure the survival of sharks. If you are considering a holiday in a location where there are sharks, you might want to go shark diving. This is a source of income for communities that encourages shark conservation.

6. If you enjoy speaking in public, why not give a talk about shark finning? This will not only enlighten others about the problem of shark finning, it will also make you an expert on the subject as you will probably need to do some research about it to properly inform others. Maybe you could give a talk in your school, church or community center.

7. If you have tried convincing restaurant managers to remove shark fin soup from their menu but they have refused, you could organise a protest at the restaurant. It would be best to do this with friends for a bit of moral support. Organise and prepare what you are going to do and remember to act within the law. There’s plenty you can do without getting yourself in trouble! If you are part of a group that is acting locally, please send us some contact details and information about protests that you may have planned. I would like StopSharkFinning.net to be a source of information for people looking for anti-shark finning groups near where they live.

8. If you see any of the typical “man bitten by shark” news items on TV or the internet, contact the website/TV station and ask them to produce a news item about shark finning. Remember – only about 10 people a year are killed by sharks, but 3 sharks are killed every second by humans.

9. If you come across a business or website that is promoting shark fin soup, send an email or post it on the stop shark finning facebook page so that we can complain about it and hopefully get it stopped.

10. Contact people of influence to inform about what is going on and to ask for their support in bringing an end to shark finning. This could be politicians, celebrities, non-profits such as Greenpeace, newspaper editors… basically anyone you think might be able to make a difference.

11. Spread the word on the street with a Stop Shark Finning T-shirt.

12. Use your imagination! These are just my ideas. You may have some much more original and interesting ideas of your own to help bring attention to shark finning. Please post your ideas on the facebook page or email them.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!