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Driven From Predator to Prey - Sharks Face Extinction

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19 July 2013, 9:53 AM
Millions lose their fins and lives to the sharkfin soup market
Hammerhead sharks are common targets of the finning industry. (Ian Scott / Shutterstock)

Every year, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week concludes its program with a familiar saying: “Sharks have more reason to fear us than we have to fear them.” This comforting thought – more people are killed each year by falling coconuts than by sharks – has never been so true. Sharks are being brutally slaughtered for their fins by the millions, and at this rate sharks soon will be functionally extinct.

The butchery takes place at sea where fishermen haul sharks aboard to saw off their fins and then dump the still-living creatures back into the ocean. The finless sharks writhe to the ocean floor, where they die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators. This hack-and-run strategy known as “finning” allows fisherman to ditch relatively unprofitable meat and sail to port with their cargos filled only with shark’s fins, which can sell for up to $400 a pound as the key ingredient in shark fin soup. More than 80 countries participate in the global market for shark fins, but few outlaw finning; and most of the slaughter occurs in international waters, where the industry is entirely unregulated.

More than 100 million sharks are killed each year, depleting shark populations in some regions by 90 percent. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that 30 percent of shark species are threatened with extinction. Sharks are particularly vulnerable because they reach sexual maturity late in life and produce few offspring. If current fishing practices aren’t curtailed, many species of shark – which have thrived as top predators for 450 million years – could vanish in decades.

Their disappearance would produce cascading effects throughout marine ecosystems. Scientists have evidence that coral reefs devoid of sharks are less resilient, more algae-covered and less biodiverse than reefs where sharks still cruise in large numbers.

Sharks are beneficial to the overall ocean ecosystem. (Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock)
Sharks are beneficial to the overall ocean ecosystem. (Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock)

This crisis demands swift and comprehensive federal action to protect sharks. The Shark Conservation Act answered this call in 2010 when it banned the practice of finning in federal waters and required that all sharks be landed with their fins attached.

And yet, when the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently proposed a rule to implement the law, it suggested that the Shark Conservation Act would preempt stricter state and territorial statutes that currently ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins altogether.

Because it is impossible to determine whether a shark fin was harvested through finning – and because most shark fins bought in the United States are imported from countries where the industry is unregulated – prohibiting finning in federal waters does not ensure that “finned” shark fins will be kept out of the market. States and territories that are determined to protect sharks and reduce consumer demand for their fins have passed legislation that eliminates in-state markets for shark fins.

If NMFS succeeds in thwarting the much-needed additional protections that nearly a dozen U.S. states and territories have decided to provide to sharks, the result will be bad for sharks and ocean communities alike. In order to alleviate the impending threat to shark populations, stringent state and territorial restrictions should be combined with, not replaced by, complementary federal protections. After all, we need sharks along for the long haul – and certainly not for just a week on TV.

the killing of sharks for their fins makes me sick we throw them back to die an agonizing death how about if someone cut off someone's legs and left them in the water to bleed to death and perhaps get eaten this practice and all cruel practices upon animals need to stop granted not everyone is going to be vegetarian or vegan but we should treat all animals with fair just humane treatment compassion or we have no right to eat them or use them in way

There are too many "traditions" that are no longer viable. There was a time when "Shark Fin Soup" didn't hurt the shark population. That is no longer true. And the eating of shark fin soup HAS TO STOP. I'm sure that with modern technology, a substitute can be created which is acceptable and healthy. This same problem goes for people who wear fur coats. The fur looks a lot more beautiful on the animal than on a human being, which by my way of thinking, looks not only ridiculous, but disrespectful of the animals killed to make a human look "glamorous."

Money, the root of all evil, lies behind this and the vast majority of the exploitation of people and planet. Money is an artificial system of valuation and personal advantage that has no correlation to the natural world and those who depend upon it. Shark finners don't do it because they're cruel and insensitive, nor do the rhino hunters, the elephant hunters, the rain forest destroyers, nor any others who do awful things in the pursuit of "making a living". They all owe the debt masters. What we need is a new world economic system that takes into account the natural world, one that does not allow the senseless acquisition of wealth into individual hands for the purpose of controlling the actions of others.

Steve you said it better than anything I have seen linking power and money to the destruction of our natural world those who do this so not realize that as we kill off species after species finally it is us who will be extinct.

If there is anyone to blame, blame the Chinese. Believe me it won't stop. The Chinese don't believe it. They think the sharks are an infinite resource!!!!

it does not surprise me, most people are lowlifes, my hope is that they turn on each other, kill themselves off, or put in jail to rot for the rest of there lives, that way, it will be more room and the world and the animals , sealife, etc. will be a better place to live in


I couldn't have put it better myself.

The demand for shark-fin soup comes mostly from the Asia Pacific region. These countries need to realize that the soup has no medicinal effect. This cruel and inhuman practice needs to stop. We're only about 20 to 30 years away from completely killing the oceans.

Shame on all countries that do these horrible things to any animal. What will happen when only mankind is left?

It's only a matter of time before some super-huge alien species arrives on this planet and makes food out of us: snipping off our limbs for soup, herding us into huge factory farms, snipping off our fingers so we can't scratch others (like they snip off the beaks of baby chickens).....

I doubt the fatcat Asians and Americans sipping sharkfin think of themselves as immoral, bad, greedy, or cruel. My experience with conservative asians and americans can be paraphrased as: "SO WHAT? The earth was made for us, the supreme beings, to use! When the sharks are gone, so what? I'll get mine NOW! To hell with the kids, they'll think of something else. We are the special ones, here and now. SO THERE!"

And another I hear very frequently from Republicans: "Jesus is coming soon, so why bother to save it? SO WHAT? Extinction is natural!" I hear this so often from the republican poor and rich alike. This attitude is not sustainable and extinction goes up the food chain to mankind eventually.

Man needs a complex ecosystem, not a corporate one.

The above Jesus quote is from James Watt, secretary interior of George Bush, corporate stooge and betrayer of the Living World and Biblical Word both. We must stop following the republican corporate elite and develop sustainable alternatives to greed.

Promote a vegetarian life style, it will help.

There is consequence for every evil action of man; and when man asks himself, "Why has this happened to me?", man need not forget his selfish act brought upon himself through the evil choices he committed himself to.

When the human species finally causes the catastrophe of total environmental collapse what will he/she do next? Return to cannibalism? We are going backwards, folks!

The King Amendment to the Farm Bill will remove protections limiting, among other cruel practices, confinement cages, puppy mills, horse slaughter, and shark finning. Please, Iowa, throw this man out of office.

What do you expect from ignorant people from other cultures as well as enough of our own to slaughter whales, sharks, tunas, salmon as well as their food supplies? It remains amazing and startling that our oceans and streams survive the onslaught of the horrid fishermen who sneak around in their trawlers.

The Almighty sent a dove as a promise that the Earth would never be destroyed. God will not have to do the job; we are doing just fine.

DO SOMETHING INTELLIGENT: LIST THE COUNTRIES IN VIOLATION -- ALL OF THEM. From now I, I will not buy another Japanese product until that country stops its practices (both finning and eating) -- and if I had a list of other countries, I would stop buying their products as well. I could live just fine without buying another item made in China, India, Japan or the scores of other countries that export very little to the U.S. that I can easily live without. This is the path. There is no other path on a plant like this one.

It's not that simple. Some of the things done in the meat industry in America aren't much better than finning. For example, more often than not, chicken are pumped with so many hormones to grow faster that they die because their bones break as they try to walk to their food bowls and they starve. It isn't just other countries we have to worry about.

Humans involved in ANY abuse are a disgrace to the world and deserve to experience the same pain and suffering they inflict on others.

Once again, I am disgusted and outraged by the cruelty and ignorance of our human species. Will our greedy, self interested, barbaric practices never end! Bless those who are trying to stop this heinous, torturous, mindless slaughter of our precious ocean wildlife. AND FOR SOUP!!!
It is unimaginable that our species could be this ignorant of the ramifications of their selfish, heartless actions. We would be an unutterably lonely species on this earth without our animals, and we would eventually turn on each other, which of course we have already done in so many instances, and we would in the end exterminate ourselves. That of course might be the best hope for the survival of any other remaining inhabitants of this planet.

Thank goodness not everyone is so totally self absorbed and without conscience or plain common sense. I pray that those kinder, more evolved, compassionate and farsighted of our species will be able to stem the tide of this vicious slaughter of our precious animals, of all kinds, for all our own sake.

The same kinds of folks who kill entire herds of elephants, including babies, for their teeth are the same kinds of people who eat shark fin soup. I didn't say the same RACE of people because too many of us believe only the Asian population is guilty of this cruel practice. Plenty of Europeans and others eat shark fin soup and plenty of them as well play with ivory trinkets that aren't worth the death of an entire species.

All that said, what can *I* do to help put an end of this kind of needless violence?

I have always feared sharks, but, O my God, my heart breaks for these poor creatures. They must be saved! One solution would be to feed the shark fishermen to the sharks. This would be poetic justice!

What the hell is the matter with people. It seems as though the majority of people don't have any concept of how the ecological process works. What a sad commentary that these amazing creatures have been around for more than 450 million years and may become extinct in a short amount of time.

This is cruel and sharks, nor any animals, need to go through this. Stop the slaughter!

God gave humans this wonderful world to enjoy and take care of. Why are humans the killers of all ???
We will all pay the price at some point.

We humans are the worst predators of all: shooting and cutting and gutting and poisoning all life on this planet with too little thought to the consequences of our actions. While not a fan of sharks overall, they're part of a life cycle within the ocean depths and deserve as much as every water creature to live.

Why is it that man always has to destroy wild creatures like elephants for their ivory (wearing apparel), leopards (for wearing apparel), rhinos (for some stupid belief it is a healing substance), tigers (for some idiotic belief their bones also have some magical healing powers), and on and on and on and of course now fins from sharks, which die a slow death for someone to SIP ON SHARK SOUP!!! what has this world become? Charley Engelking, NM

Humans can be cruel.

there is one nation in particular whose rise to wealth is devastating to the natural world - and it's the fault - in large part - of US CEOs taking their jobs overseas and doing business there. the education of the people in that country with regards to the natural world appears to be abysmal at best. I don't know what the solution is, other than - clone the fin cells and leave the sharks ALONE.

Sharks are magnificent creatures and none deserve the slaughter. Stop the slaughter!

What 80 countries? I only knew of Japan.
This could stop tomorrow. This is luxury food.
We need to know what countries so we can start a Boycott.

I can't begin to imagine how anyone could do something so horrible. He torture animals for food and "fun." We will have to answer for the inhumanity we show to both people and animals.

May God show you the same mercy you've given the creatures of the world.

Sharks are beautiful creatures. Their lives are just as important as ours, probably more so. Humans are the ones polluting, destroying, murdering, and making ugly this beautiful world that we were given the privilege to live upon. I don't know how so-called people can do such cruel things and still live with themselves. And to me, the people that eat this soup are also to blame. What a selfish act. Says a lot about a person. Same holds true for veal.

I concur with most, of not all of the posted comments.
The gradual and deliberate pollution, imbalance and extinction of our eco-system has to do with decades of blind-sided hunting, pillaging and plundering, not only on our precious oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and their inhabitants, but also our land-dwelling animals, forests and crops. Initially, our so-called leaders in positions of power have not been aware or even cared about how to manage, preserve, maintain, grow and create sustainable futures. Greed, competition and instant gratification has blind-sided more conscious thinking. We, the people, must be the ones to transform these co-dependent, vain, self-gratifying and ego-oriented attitudes, in ourselves, and in our so-called leadership. So Be It!

We are tampering with the eco system. We need sharks and all living creatures in the ocean

This is just plain wrong. If they hunted these animals and then used it's whole body for food, I could understand, but this is just absurd superstition and utterly cruel.

How utterly embarrassing of the human race. Never ceases to disgust me. What an awful way to die. I hope that justice will find them. I will do whatever I can to save these beautiful creatures.

Sharks are a necessary part of our world. We need to keep harmony and balance in life. It is devastating that sharks are being murdered to the point of extinction for soup.

Elephant tusks...Rhino horns...Alligator skins....and now shark fins...join the ranks of
the greedy and insensitive so called human beings who take it upon themselves to deprive
future generataions of their own right to the wonder of nature. What a shame!

Elephant tusks...Rhino horns...Alligator skins....and now shark fins...join the ranks of
the greedy and insensitive so called human beings who take it upon themselves to deprive
future generataions of their own right to the wonder of nature. What a shame!

Elephant tusks...Rhino horns...Alligator skins....and now shark fins...join the ranks of
the greedy and insensitive so called human beings who take it upon themselves to deprive
future generataions of their own right to the wonder of nature. What a shame!

Human greed knows no bounds. Man is swiftly destroying this beautiful planet that God has given us to inhabit and enjoy. How dare we destroy what God has created out of pure greed — for the lust of money!

This is so terrible. I dont understand. Im in favor of stopping this. This is not a livelihood.

No species should go extinct.

If we catch the one's doing this and put them in jail for a long time maybe it will teach them something. But in the end they will stand befor a judge that we all will Jesus.

another example of human greed and stupidity. With the extinction every species, we come close to our own end. The interconnection of all life cannot be destroyed without serious consequences. The sharks have a significant role in the marine ecosystem. We destroy it at our own peril.

Yet one more act of stupid, selfish people who can't grasp the fact the extinction is forever.
And with the demise of each species we face our own questionable future. The circle of life cannot be broken without consequences.

You Should Be Ashamed Of Yourselves!

The steps to solve this are pretty direct. They should include a total moratorium on catching sharks in both commercial and "sport" fisheries in the US EEZ until native populations rebound, and a total ban on imported shark fins from any source. Asian fishermen won't fish sustainably and therefore should be closed out of US markets.

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