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Shark Finning: How The Hunters Became The Hunted


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Ah, sharks. They’ve been around for over 400 million years all around the globe. At the moment, there are 440 different species located in the depths and shallows. Some fellow shark lovers may say that their favorite kind of shark is the great white or even the hammerhead, but there’s one thing we all agree on: they’re one of the most feared hunters of the sea. I have been fascinated with these predators since I was a little girl. At one point in time, I could tell you everything there was to know about them, which is why I feel so strongly about shark finning. I would not have found out about this horrible practice until I wanted to know what the world thought.

Shark finning is the process of cutting off a shark’s fin, which is between 1-5% of its total weight, and throwing the rest of its living body back into the ocean, where it can’t steer and sinks to the bottom while also bleeding profusely and suffocating. Fishermen are drawn to this practice because they can get a lot of money for the fins, the average being about US $450/lb. These fins are typically used in a Chinese soup called shark fin soup, which is a symbol of high status.

History

Shark finning is the process of cutting off a shark’s fin, which is between 1-5% of its total weight, and throwing the rest of its living body back into the ocean, where it can’t steer and sinks to the bottom while also bleeding profusely and suffocating. Fishermen are drawn to this practice because they can get a lot of money for the fins, the average being about US $450/lb. These fins are typically used in a Chinese soup called shark fin soup, which is a symbol of high status. Historically, this dish was a favorite amongst Chinese Emperors and their guests because they believed it had medicinal properties and it represented a victory against the almighty shark. In today’s society, it’s popularity has skyrocketed with the growing wealth and population. Nowadays, it’s seen at business dinners, weddings, banquets and more, and, due to the high demand, fishermen are tempted to hunt more sharks.

Have you ever eaten shark fin soup?
Yes
No

Into The Abyss


Centuries ago, people started to hunt
The beautiful creatures of the deep
The ones who lurk in the shadows
The ones who've earned our fear
Now they're starting to disappear


Apex hunters of the sea
Won't you listen to me
Not every human wants to cut off your fins
And watch you sink into the endless abyss

People say that you eat us
That can't be farther from the truth
For tens of us, they take millions of you
For what? Yeah, money and soup

Apex hunters of the sea
Won't you listen to me
Not every human wants to cut off your fins
And watch you sink into the endless abyss
The hunters that you seek
Are the ones killing all of your kind
They're watching you die
As they rack in the cash while the others, they dine on your flesh

Sure, it's banned, it's illegal
Doesn’t mean they’re done, now does it?
Stop this madness at once before I feel sick
That is my final wish.  

The Ripple Effect

The real problem is the ripple effect these fishermen are causing. On the surface, people are able to see that they’re causing a severe decline in the shark populations by killing approximately 100 million sharks each year. Some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% because of finning. For example, one type of shark that is being finned is the scalloped hammerhead, which is endangered. To put it into perspective, 1.3-2.7 million scalloped hammerheads are finned and killed yearly causing the northwestern Atlantic population to decline from 155,500 in 1981 to 26,500 by 2005. By 2018, they had seen a 95% decline. However, what most people don’t understand is that sharks are slow growers and have low reproductive rates, which makes them especially vulnerable to extinction. For many species, it’s going to be hard to increase their numbers because of how rapidly they’re being killed off and because some species take years to mature and don’t have many offspring.

Sharks also help control the numbers of other animal populations. Without them, their prey’s population will increase and will affect their entire ecosystem. Take the smooth hammerhead and rays. Since there are fewer hammerheads to control the ray population, the rays are eating more scallops and clams, which is impacting the diversity of their ecosystem and their ecotourism. In regards to ecotourism, it was estimated that a live hammerhead brought in $1.6 million. Compared to the few hundred dollars for a pound of fins, I’d say live sharks are so much better moneymakers.

Progress

During the past few years, major steps have been taken to work towards ending shark finning. In 2013, the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) added 5 additional shark species to Appendix II, which consists of animals that aren’t currently endangered, but could be considering their trade. Rather than ban shark finning, this allows it to go on, but adds further protection and regulation to the species. Since 1994, 22 individual countries have been trying to do their part in reducing finning. In 2010, the U.S. passed the 2010 Shark Conservation Act, which enforces the fact that all sharks that were caught in U.S. waters have to be brought to shore as a whole shark with their fins attached. Last year, the U.S. Congress also introduced a bipartisan ban on fin trading called the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. Ultimately, it would remove the U.S. from the fin trade. In addition, China has been working on decreasing the cultural value of shark fins and are prohibiting the serving of the soup since 2012. The most difficult part of having different rules and regulations is enforcing them. Even with these, people continue to fin illegally. Last year, Sea Shepherd revealed an illegal shipment of shark fins in Hong Kong that contained 980kg (2160.53 lbs) that included fins of protected and valuable animals. It will be a long and difficult battle to end this for good.

“They should no longer be called shark fin traders but shark fin smugglers which is exactly what they are, and they should be dealt with as smugglers, instead of being pampered in fear of upsetting livelihoods; they are criminals. AFCD Officers need to be given the power to enter, search and prosecute, yet they either do not have the powers or they lack the initiative and incentive to do so.” – Gary Stokes

What Can You Do?

-Don’t eat shark fin soup

-Spread the word and educate others

-Advocate for regulations or laws banning the sale and trade of shark fins

-Donate to anti-finning organizations

Some Anti-Finning Organizations

Works Cited

Fairclough, Caty. “Shark Finning: Sharks Turned Prey.” Smithsonian, Aug. 2013, ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/sharks-rays/shark-finning-sharks-turned-prey. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

Ocean Sentry. 27 Jan. 2018, www.oceansentry.org/scalloped-hammerhead-shark-sphyrna-lewini-population-declined-roughly-95/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

“Sea Shepherd Hong Kong Reveals Illegal Shark Fin Shipments.” Sea Shepherd, 30 May 2018, www.seashepherdglobal.org/latest-news/sshk-sharkfin-bust/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.”Shark Fin Soup.” Shark Savers. Shark Savers, www.sharksavers.org/en/education/sharks-are-in-trouble/shark-fin-soup1/. Accessed 7 Apr. 2019.

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COMMENTS: 6
  1. April 25, 2019 by Anna Lee Reply

    Hi Keona,
    I think you’ve done a great job talking about an important issue. It was very interesting to read about the progress that is going on now and I love the song you wrote! I thought that was a very creative way to convey your message about shark finning.

  2. April 25, 2019 by Olivia Hebert Reply

    I loved how you incorporated your face and voice by writing a song! I have also found sharks fascinating since I was young, and this is a cause I feel strongly about, I even used to watch a show called “whale watchers” that stars many members of the organization Sea Shepherd. While reading through the statistics I began to wonder Is the finning of sharks one of there leading causes of death? If not, what is?

  3. April 27, 2019 by Abby Sekoff Reply

    Your song was such a creative way of adding who you are to the project. I love this topic, it is the only one of its kind in the conference. Destructing oceans is a huge issue at this time and sharks are at the center of them. People need to appreciate their beauty. Is there any current bans or laws on shark finning? Is it common in the United States as well?

  4. April 28, 2019 by Charles.Jones Reply

    Hi Keona,
    This is such a cool project! I love the visuals you used as they helped me better understand the problem of shark finning. Great work!

  5. April 28, 2019 by Madi Reply

    Ki you’re such a queen. Shark finning is something I find truly disgusting and I’m glad you made this project for awareness. I learned and lot and didn’t realize how popular shark hunting and shark fin soup was. Your song is so well written and adds a great personal touch. I notice you talked about how illegal shark hunting is still popular. Is there anyway for governments/ activist groups around the world to discourage or prevent that?

  6. May 02, 2019 by Larson Palmgren Reply

    I really loved this! This is definitely a topic that needs much more publicity. Not only could this project bring awareness for the fin industry but also help diminish the fear of sharks that a lot of us naturally have

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