What is Shark Finning?
- Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is most often still 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.
- 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.
- Any shark is taken-regardless of age, size, or species.
- Longlines, used in shark finning operations, are the most significant cause of losses in shark populations worldwide.
- Shark finning is widespread, and largely unmanaged and unmonitored.
- Shark finning has increased over the past decade due to the increasing demand for shark fins (for shark fin soup and traditional cures), improved fishing technology, and improved market economics.
- Shark specialists estimate that 100 million sharks are killed for their fins, annually.
- One pound of dried shark fin can retail for $300 or more. It's a multi-billion dollar industry.
Why ban shark finning?
- Finning is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of sharks every year.
- The removal of the ocean’s top predators may have serious, widespread effects for marine ecosystems and potentially threaten yields of other commercially important species.
- Finning is hugely wasteful – throwing away 95% of a valuable protein source should not be an option in a world where fish stocks are declining and millions of people face chronic hunger.
- Finning prevents species-specific catch data from being collected. Without such information, sustainable management of shark fisheries is not possible.
Who are the largest offenders of shark fin?
Hong Kong handles at least 50% and perhaps as much as 80% of the world trade in shark fin. The Hong Kong Government Census and Statistics Department maintains detailed records of unprocessed and processed shark fin imports (recorded as weight and value of frozen/salted and dried fin) by country of origin and country of consignment. These records show that in recent years imports of unprocessed shark fins from Europe, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, USA, Yemen, India, Japan, and Mexico have dominated the Hong Kong market.
Hong Kong trade data indicate that imports of fins rose significantly at the end of the 1980s, from 2739 metric tons (mt) in 1980 to over 3000 mt in 1987 and 4000 mt in 1992. Imports are currently continuing to grow at 6% per annum. Before this time, most sharks caught incidentally in long line fisheries (probably the largest source of fins) were an unwanted by-catch. Fishermen tried to minimize incidental hooking rates and sharks were generally released alive (over 80% of sharks taken in pelagic hook and line fisheries around Hawaii were alive when brought on board for finning). The increased demand for shark fins combined with depletion of stocks of traditional target species (e.g. tuna and swordfish) transformed sharks from a largely unwanted by-catch into a valuable target species within ten years.
What can I do as an individual?
There are many things you can do as an individual against the exploitation of sharks:
- Refuse to eat in restaurants that serve shark fin soup or any other shark products
- Do not shop in any grocery stores that sell shark - All sharks are endangered on a global level.
- Tell as many people as you can about the wrongful act of shark finning.
- Open your mind and understand these magnificent creatures.