A marine animal issue that it’s very nice to see getting more attention recently is the issue of shark-finning. Shark-finning is, literally, “the removal and retention of shark fins” (while the sharks are still alive), while the rest of each shark’s body is thrown away at sea after the fins are removed. After having their fins cut off and being thrown back into the sea, the sharks usually die an agonizing death from loss of blood, or being eaten because they are unable to move.
But why do people do this? Well, recently, it’s been because of the increasing appetite people have had for shark fin soup, a Chinese dish usually served at weddings and banquets.
As I mentioned above, this issue has been getting more attention in recent years. The late conservationist Steve Irwin was said to walk out of Chinese restaurants if he saw that they served shark fin soup. New Zealand has granted full protection from fisherman to great white sharks, but not other shark species, so long as the sharks are already dead when they are finned. Last year, Hawaii became the first US state to ban the possession, sale, and distribution of shark fins (though the ban doesn’t take effect until this July).
So what is so important about saving sharks, you all might be asking yourselves. Well, I think that Sea Shepherd sums that up pretty well on the section of their website in which they talk about this very thing: “….sharks are valued citizens of oceanic ecosystems.” Sharks, like all animals, serve a purpose within their ecosystems (in the case of sharks, they are predators and scavengers). In addition, sharks can take up to 15 years to mature to reproductive age, and most mothers only give birth to one pup at a time. When you take all this into account, sharks are being killed in many cases faster than they can reproduce. We don’t yet know exactly what this will cause, but the consequences will likely be serious for the marine ecosystems.
But what can we do? Well, it is important, as with any cause, to educate others who might not know much about the issue. Like I’ve mentioned before, the shark-finning issue has been getting more attention recently, but every little bit helps. Check out Sea Shepherd’s website for more information about how you can get involved and help the sharks (and other marine wildlife)! And of course, should you ever be anywhere where shark fin soup is being served,don’t eat it, and tell your fellow diners why. Until all are free!