Shark Finning Needs to Stop
Should we kill off one of the most beneficial predators of the ocean just to add some texture to your soup? No way! Before you order shark fin soup off the menu, think about how shark finning affects the ocean ecosystem.
It’s estimated that the fins of up to 73 million sharks are traded per year (“Shark Finning”). In some areas where sharks have nearly been eliminated, the fish they were feeding on became overpopulated and caused damage to the ecosystem by wiping out other species farther down the food chain (Heimbuch). Shark finning is a terrible practice that should be banned because sharks are very beneficial to their ocean ecosystems, many are already endangered, and lastly, because eating shark meat can also be a health risk to humans due to high mercury levels found in sharks. Shark finning is when people catch sharks, cut their fins off, and throw the sharks back into the water. The shark is left to die a terrible death.
Without its fins the shark will either drown or bleed to death. The fishermen do this because of the high value of the fins for shark fin soup (Heimbuch). The fishermen leave the rest of the shark in the ocean because the body isn’t worth much. The often large sharks would take up precious space in the boat. Shark fins can be sold for $100 or more per pound (Allen).
Many of the open ocean species are affected. Hammerhead, Bull, Tiger, Shortfin Mako, Silky, Sandbar, and Oceanic Whitetips are some of the species of sharks that have been badly hurt by finning (“Shark Fin Soup”. Hong Kong is the world’s largest shark fin trading center. Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year due to shark finning (“Stop Shark Finning”). If this keeps up, some shark species may soon become extinct. Shark finning is mainly driven by the high demand of shark fin soup in certain Asian countries.
Shark finning is a cruel practice that is harming the shark population and our oceans. Sharks have an important role in the ecosystem. Sharks control the populations of their prey. For example, if Great White Sharks were eliminated, then populations of their main species of prey, like seals, would grow a lot. Subsequently, the prey of the seals would then become endangered and the problems would go on and on (Heimbuch). Another example, Tiger Sharks help the seagrass continue to be healthy by preying on the turtles that eat the grass.
Because of the sharks in that part of the ocean, the turtles then cannot eat the grass to their heart’s content. We do not need to eat sharks but the effect of shark extermination could lead to problems for foods that we do depend on more. For instance, getting rid of sharks in some areas could cause the loss of lobsters, clams, scallops and more. Sharks also tend to prey on the sick and the weak prey species in the ocean. This helps keep marine animal populations healthy.
When sharks eat the sick and weaker fish, the strongest survive and it leads to stronger fish populations (“Sharks’ Role in the Oceans”). Sharks also help coral reefs stay balanced. When sharks feed on the bigger fish, the populations of the smaller fish are allowed to flourish. These smaller fish feed on the algae within the coral. With fewer algae, the coral can have enough space to survive (“Sharks: Key to Healthy Oceans”).
There are many consequences when shark populations become depleted. If you’re still not convinced of the shark’s important role in our oceans, here are some further examples. In some areas sharks like to eat octopus. Without sharks there would be an abundance of octopuses. They would then deplete their prey of choice, the lobster (Allen). In North Carolina, a shellfish fishery collapsed because of the absence of sharks.
When the sharks weren’t there to eat the rays, the rays nearly exterminated all the clams and scallops (“Sharks: Key to Healthy Oceans”). As you can see certain fish populations would get out of hand without sharks. Or alternatively, sometimes the opposite happens and fish populations decrease largely without sharks because without sharks the sick fish aren’t preyed on, and end up hurting their entire population (“Why Are Sharks Important”). As you can see, sharks keep the food chain in balance, protect marine plants and coral, and keep fish populations healthy. Sharks are a very important part of the ocean ecosystem that we can’t take so lightly as to further allow shark finning. Shark finning is absolutely the largest cause of shark depletion.
Some experts estimate that up to 100 million sharks die for their fins each year (“Stop Shark Finning”). Sharks are especially vulnerable to endangerment and extinction because they don’t give birth to a lot of pups. So when a lot of sharks are killed, their population can’t recover for a long time. For millions of years sharks were used to having hardly any predators which is why they don’t give birth to a lot of babies like other fish do. But then around 30 years ago humans started rapidly hunting them.
The sharks didn’t have any time to adapt. All sharks that are hunted for the shark fin trade are threatened or endangered species. In some places where certain shark species used to be plentiful have seen population declines of 90-99 percent (“Shark Fin Soup”). As you can see, shark finning is not just a little detrimental to sharks and our oceans, but is vastly detrimental to them surviving. Eating shark fin soup started back during the Ming dynasty in China.
Back then, only the emperor and his guests ate it (“Shark Fin Soup-Shark Savers”). Eating shark fin soup in Asia is and has been a sign of wealth and prosperity, fit for an emperor. It is traditionally served at festivals and banquets. More people have been able to buy shark fins in China than ever before because of the growth of their economy. But there are many health issues associated with eating shark which is not fit for an emperor or any special occasion! (“Shark Fin Soup- Shark Angels”). Since sharks can live so long they can pick up many toxins during their lifetime.
Some sharks can live to be 50 years old. Sharks contain very high amounts of mercury compared to other fish (“Shark Fin Soup is Not Healthy”). Mercury ingestion for humans can cause brain damage, muscle weakness, and hearing and walking problems. It is also very dangerous to pregnant women and small children. (“Health Effects”). Shark fins are also tasteless so they don’t add any flavor to the soup.
The fins are used because of the tradition and texture. They should use a different type of fish in the soup. There really aren’t many reasons to eat shark fin soup but there are health problems that are connected to eating shark fins. You don’t have to be a marine biologist or dedicate your life to saving sharks to make a difference in the conservation of sharks. You can simply tell your friends about why we need sharks and how shark finning is hurting their populations.
Of course, you should not use or eat any shark products. This contributes to their being overfished and isn’t good for your own health. Watch for labels like Rock Salmon. This means there is shark in it. You can also talk about saving the sharks on a blog or social media, informing others that sharks aren’t bloodthirsty killers, but are actually necessary predators in the ocean (“10 Ways to Save Sharks”).
There are many ways to contribute to shark conservation. Shark finning is a terrible, inhumane practice that needs to stop. Sharks are amazing creatures and should be protected. The ocean ecosystem depends on sharks. Sharks control marine animal populations and keep them healthy. People fin sharks just for some texture in their soup and eating it might even be harmful to your health.
Sometimes we have to leave behind traditions for the good of the future. Before you order shark fin soup off the menu, think about what goes into preparing this soup, and whether this soup really is a sign of success. Works Cited “10 Ways to Save Sharks.” Shark Angels. Online. org/index.php/get-involved/ways-to-save-sharks> 7 March Allen, Thomas. The Shark Almanac NY, NY: The Lyons Press, 1999. “Health Effects.” EPA. Online. ” Endangered Species. Online. htm> 6 March 2014 “Shark Finning.” Oceana. Online. ” Shark Angels. Online. Online. http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/shark-fin-soup1/> 11 March 2014 “Shark Fin Soup Destroys Shark populations.” Shark Savers. Online. oceanicdefense.org/campaigns/stop-shark-finning.html> 6 March 2014 “Why are Sharks Important.” London Sea Life Aquarium. Online. 6 March 2014
org/index.php/get-involved/ways-to-save-sharks> 7 March Allen, Thomas. The Shark Almanac NY, NY: The Lyons Press, 1999. “Health Effects.” EPA.
” Endangered Species. Online. htm> 6 March 2014 “Shark Finning.” Oceana. Online. ” Shark Angels. Online. Online. http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/shark-fin-soup1/> 11 March 2014 “Shark Fin Soup Destroys Shark populations.” Shark Savers. Online. oceanicdefense.org/campaigns/stop-shark-finning.html> 6 March 2014 “Why are Sharks Important.” London Sea Life Aquarium. Online. 6 March 2014
htm> 6 March 2014 “Shark Finning.” Oceana. Online.
” Shark Angels. Online.
Online. http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/shark-fin-soup1/> 11 March 2014 “Shark Fin Soup Destroys Shark populations.” Shark Savers. Online.
oceanicdefense.org/campaigns/stop-shark-finning.html> 6 March 2014 “Why are Sharks Important.” London Sea Life Aquarium. Online. 6 March 2014