Stop Shark Finning: Save the Sharks
The Brutal Practice of Shark Finning
Danger swims in the ocean. But it also floats on its surface. Sharks have inhabited the Earth's seas since the time of the dinosaurs. Yet a disturbing practice threatens their continued survival. Shark finning is a brutal exercise that destroys the entire animal just for the privilege of its fin.
I want to warn you right now. There are disturbing photos and videos in this article. The most graphic shark finning pictures are within a slideshow below (with a benign image to start). I share this information in the belief that there can be no sugar-coating of the issue.
Efforts to save the sharks will continue to be thwarted if shark finning is not stopped. Fortunately, organizations and education/outreach are helping to bring this practice to light.
Even if you don't love sharks - yes, even if you fear them - they are an integral, important piece to the ocean eco-system. We cannot stand by and allow them to be slaughtered unnecessarily.
Are you ready to explore shark finning further? Let's dive in right now...
What is Shark Finning?
Over 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins. You might think that the practice is similar to fishing, but that's incorrect. Fins are cut off and the sharks are often thrown back into the ocean.
Experts believe that the sharks suffer for days, before they finally die as a result. The shark is usually alive when it is tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks toward the bottom where it is eaten alive by other fish, or they drown (if they are not in constant movement their gills cannot extract oxygen from the water).
Why the barbaric practice? Shark finning takes place at sea so the fishers have only the fins to transport. Shark meat is considered low value and therefore not worth the cost of transporting the bulky shark bodies to market. The practice has resulted in some shark species being categorized as endangered. According to Wikipedia:
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (C.I.T.E.S.) has put the great white shark on its 'Appendix II' list of endangered species. The shark is targeted by fishermen for its jaws, teeth, and fins, and as a game fish. The great white shark, however, is rarely an object of commercial fishing, although its flesh is considered valuable.
Why Should You Care about Saving the Sharks?
Why should we care about saving the sharks?
- Sharks have inhabited the Earth's water for 400 million years. Many date back to the age of the dinosaurs. You are probably best familiar with the Great White Shark, or Hammerhead Sharks, but there are 375 different species of sharks, many of which are not aggressive at all.
- Your chance of getting attacked by a shark is less than the probability you'll be struck by lightning. Shark attacks are highly publicized (much like airplane crashes), which skews public perception and fuels misunderstandings.
- Did you know that sharks are highly intelligent? We all love videos of smart dolphins doing tricks. Many shark species can be trained like dolphins, as well.
- Perhaps most importantly, sharks are vital to the ocean ecosystem. As their numbers decline, the entire balance of the marine environment will shift. We need sharks, just like we need other predators like lions, snakes and bears to keep prey in check.
Sadly, human greed and misperceptions about sharks now threaten this "lion of the ocean." Only 17 countries in the world ban shark finning. Much more can be done to stop the brutal practice.
What Can you Do to Help Save the Sharks?
You can help stop shark finning. It won't cost you very much time or money, either. Here are the simple steps you can take:
First, do not eat shark fin soup – and avoid restaurants that serve it. I must admit that I was shocked when I did a Google images search on "shark fins" and, at least 50% of the pictures were of shark fin soup. What is up with that??
Second, look into whether your country is one of the 17 that bans shark finning. If it is not, you should write to your government representative to urge them to adopt new laws prohibiting the practice. In addition, your country should prohibit the sale or import/export of shark fins. Consider taking part in a letter-writing campaign to the Secretary General of the United Nations to push for international bans to stop shark finning.
Third, lend your change, or your pen to dedicated websites that work to help save the sharks. Check out seashepard.org, oceana.org, wildaid.com, sharkwater.com and care2.com. Sign a petition and pass it along to your friends and family. Make a pledge and make a difference!
If you want to effectively work on this issue, do not take a page from Hollywood. Jessica Alba's efforts to save sharks backfired recently after she put up shark posters in Oklahoma City, which was considered to be defamatory.
Beyond shark finning, other threats face these creatures and threaten their future survival. Some people slaughter sharks for their skin (leather goods), teeth and jaws (jewelry or other adornments) or cartilage (medicine or makeup).
Shark Finning is a Brutal Practice
Shark Finning Threatens Continued Survival of Shark Species
Since the 1970s the populations of several shark species have declined by over 95%. Yet, we cannot know the true impact of finning, due to the secretive nature of the practice.
Sadly, shark finning is widespread, unmanaged and unmonitored. And money speaks loudly, relative to environmental concerns. A single pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. This means that it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
If we allow shark finning to continue, within a decade we could see the loss of many species of sharks. The bottom line is that every country in the world that has a coastline must enact and enforce laws and regulations pertaining to fishing in their waters. Shark finning also violates the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and is contrary to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's International Plan for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
We must speak for the sharks, and respect their long history on Earth which predates mankind's first appearance. Please, spread the word and be aware of the deadly shark finning practice.
© 2009 Stephanie Hicks
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