By Youth Ocean Advocate Tiasha D.
Sharks are some of the most magnificent creatures on earth, as well as a vital part of the ocean ecosystems. There is a myth that sharks are dangerous, human-eating creatures, when in reality very few people get killed by sharks.
Unfortunately, sharks are in great danger. Many shark species have been pushed to the brink of extinction by shark finning, which is the act of catching a shark for its fins and throwing the rest of the body into the water. Because of this practice, the population of many shark species has decreased from 90 to 99% in the past few decades. In fact, humans kill up to 73 million sharks every year.
Shark finning is harmful in many aspects. All sharks that are finned will die a painful death. They will either suffocate (if they are not in constant motion their gills cannot get oxygen from the water), die of blood loss, starve, or get eaten by other fish.
The disappearance of sharks hurts the whole ecosystem. To give an example, when the smooth hammerhead sharks decreased in a certain population, their prey, rays increased. The larger ray population then ate more scallops, clams, and other bivalves. This in turn hurt the bivalve population (and therefore the biodiversity of the area), but it also hurt the human fisheries.
Shark finning can also harm the coastal populations that rely on ecotourism from sharks.
But what are shark fins used for? They are used in a popular dish called Shark Fin Soup, which is a symbol of status in Asian countries. The fins have more monetary value than the rest of the shark (selling for as much as $500 a pound), so fishermen choose to only harvest that part of the shark.
What I never could have guessed about this issue was that it was happening right in my hometown. I learned about shark finning in an excellent documentary called Racing Extinction, but I got the idea that shark fin trade was a problem in Asian countries far away from my where I lived. So, I was appalled to find shark fin soup on the menu when eating at a Seattle Asian restaurant with friends.
After doing some more research on the topic, I found out that there had been a law passed in Seattle against shark fin trade. Christine Gregoire, former governor of Washington, banned the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins five years ago, in 2011. So why was it still being sold?
Obviously, the law isn’t being implemented well enough – I found out that shark fin soup is still being sold in the few US states that have passed a law against it. Restaurants are willing to take the risk of paying high fines in order to sell this expensive dish.
So what can you do to stop this horrible trade? Please do not support the restaurants in Seattle that sell this soup. Do not eat shark fin soup, and question those who are selling it. Spread awareness to all your friends about the issue.
Sharks are some of the most amazing creatures in the world, and if we don’t act now, we’ll lose these beautiful animals from the earth forever. They are extremely susceptible to extinction, with their slow growth and low reproductive rates. It is impossible for them to replenish their population as fast as they are being diminished. Sharks have been around for millions of years (since before the time of dinosaurs), and they really don’t deserve to disappear now because of our actions.