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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.

Cruelty to any form of life is ethically not acceptable. A food substance does not qualify for extinction of a specie. People in power who are elected to be leaders are not working to the ir best for the problems of increasing population. We all need to understand what it takes for survival of all specie not just focus on destroying the shark population. Thank you

save our sharks

It is a crime to kill sharks for their fins. It is brutal. I hope that people will see what a terrible thing it is. Margaret

Sharks fins are muscle and have no taste or food value what so ever. It is about time that restaurants using them and anyone in this nasty chain of cruelty, from the fishing boats catching them to the houses drying the fins were prosecuted and jailed.

The finning behavior may be self correcting... shark fins are accumulating a power neurotoxin at a rapid rate... hope it is fast enough. It is getting harder to figure out what to wish for in this world.

Again, the human race never cease to amaze me!! I am ashamed to be human after reading about the atrocities that the human race inflicts upon all animals, sea life, birds, etc. EVERY breathing creature deserves to be able to inhabit this earth. What a horrible world it will be when we humans have NOTHING but ourselves left in it...

We have no right to destroy God's creatures. The exist for God's purpose in creation. The world will lose without them. We are not here to destroy God's creation. We are here to love it.

well said! I completely agree.

Yet another example of how careless and cruel we humans are capable of being. This too, will come back to haunt us. As you do to others etc.

Again & again Man is destroying another species for GREED! Disgusting & Shameful! What is wrong with the human race? Sharks have existed long before man & sharks do not ruin the oceans; the same cannot be said for humans. Who is the smartest? haha Not Humans! What does that say about Us!

Sharks are a keystone in the ecological system of the ocean. Kill them off and the entire system will collapse, just as a building or an arch will collapse if you remove the keystone. I learned this in grade school, but now all we teach in school is how to pass tests. The human race is far too concerned with trivia, like TV and movies (not that I don't like movies) to look at the big picture. The big picture is that we are destroying everything on this planet that sustains us. I'm glad that I'm old, because I really don't want to be around when the big die-off happens.

Why are sharks important? They clean the garbage out of the ocean (along with other species of scavengers) are essential in maintaining a healthy environment that a very large number of humans rely on for food. Of course, controlling our own population is a no-brainer.

The cruelty of finning sharks is almost more than I can comprehend. How can these nations consider themselves educated? Shame on them and their barbarism!
Shame on those who eat these soups!
The oceans are so very vulnerable and where is the protection? Real leaders should be jumping all over this!

Humans cannot continue this rampant destruction of animals and the planet in order to satisfy our tastes, alleviate our fears, fulfill our cravings and expect it to have no repercussion on our own survival. Eventually, it will. Unfortunately, by then it will be far too late. We must act now. Right now. Or we will all suffer the fate of those we kill so wantonly. Humans can survive much except our own destructiveness.

This is beyond sad , to take the life of an animal , in this extremely cruel way for a soup .. While the shark sinks to the bottom of the ocean because its fin{s} have been severed... Well I'll never look the same way at the shark if nothing is done to stop this madness..~!~

You wouldn't want to be one of these people cutting fins from sharks in front of me.....
Stop this slaughter!!! Help us end this right now!!

The sharks were here long, long before us, and I hope they will be here when mankind has taken their last breath!

Our planets natural resources come in many forms. Whether they are classified as animal, vegetable, or mineral, they are all precious and deserve our collective respect. Humans, by nature, are a dangerous group. Greed driven responses are common to a desire to achieve. But, achieve what? Protecting animals should be on everyones mind as the animal world has no one to defend them but people who have an understanding of nature and how that balance of nature must be nurtured and protected from outside entities that do not understand or just do not care about the well-being of our world. Please support the efforts made by this group and many other individuals who are the stewards of Planet Earth.

The only 100 million thing that we should be getting rid of each year is starving children, but not with Shark Fin Soup!

Once again, the elite take whatever they want without any care to what or who is destroyed in the process. Since this fin "soup" costs over $100 at least a bowl I'm told, it's obvious just who it is driving this business. Rich, well off business people trying to. "Impress" clients and others like this. These are the people to target. We need to stop doing ANY type of business with any company whose CEO's, etc eat this stuff. Not too hard to figure out who it is if there are ppl in Japan who are also trying to stop this massacre of these innocent and beautiful animals. Something else besides "talking" and merely writing more articles needs to be done. The talking route hasn't worked so what's the next step?? Boycott things? Embarrass business executives? Search out and publicize the names of the restaurants who keep this OFF the real menus but secretly serve it to their rich customers? This is what a Dr who I work with says happens in many restaurants there. He lives in California part time and in Japan about 4-6 months a year. And he is a big shot professor there and pretty well off. His stories about this are very sad. He says "all the restaurants know who are the business and wealthy men who want tthis soup and to make people think they do not serve it, they hide the truth and secretly serve it to the rich customers - he says it can cost up to 2sd each bowl. No wonder so many poor fishermen kill these shatks. Anything to make money I guess. This is so disgusting. And it is destroying our oceans.

They have more to fear from us, than us from them. What a horrible way to die.

They have more to fear from us, than us from them. What a horrible way to die.

It feels like, those who should be hearing, who should "hark" to the call, are off somewhere else, in the land where it is fine to decimate the ocean, fine to frack the land, fine to do whatever they please, and those who feel, with deep sensitivity, that this is wrong, that they are us, are left writing endless pleas to please reconsider. There is something wrong with this story. And as the petitions come into my email, the endless petitions, I often wonder, when is it coming to be Time to really stop all this cruelty, all this wrongdoing. If not now, then, WHEN?

How many letters have I written? If there is a celestial counter, it might be, thousands. What really counts, would be to once, feel heard. I think those of us who are part of this herd, of thundering about elephants, wolves, cetaceans of all colors, of earth itself, should demand better of those in charge. And we should be, leading the charge. Charges of inhumanity towards Earth, our Home.

How extremely well said.....and I couldn't agree with you more, as I feel EXACTLY the same way. In regards to the human race, and the countless (and unceasing) atrocities being committed against the non-humans that inhabit the planet and the environment, I feel ashamed to be one of them. Over the years I too have sent countless comments and added my name to online petitions in support of conservation efforts. But it never ends, does it? My email inbox is filled on a daily basis with requests for support whether it's simply signing another petition, and/or monetary support from many different non-profit organizations attempting to right the wrongs. And I always ask myself, when is this going to end????? Deep down I fear it never least not until we've completely decimated all other species to the point of complete environmental collapse. We will be the cause of our own this point I feel we deserve it. I just wish that those who had no say, those who stood no chance against those with supposedly superior intellect weren't the ones who had to suffer and perish. It disgusts and sickens me, and makes my heart heavy and sad.

Well said. Still, I can't help but feel that we are leading the charge. If others are like me, they are doing all they can, especially given the constraints of time and other important considerations. Still, nothing can be counted more important than the preservation of our home, and preserving sharks is tantamount to preserving ourselves as a species. What will it take for those who do not see, do not acknowledge the irresponsibility, the impending horror to be visited on all of us - it's arrival? ...

Save the sharks!

Please combine state and territorial restrictions on shark finning with complementary federal protection.

They too deserve to survive !

They too deserve to survive !

They too deserve to survive !

put a stop to this now. what the hell is wrong with people.

The most severe problem in this world is overpopulation of the human species and all the related problems of excessive demands, this being one of them. Something must be done to stop this cruel unnecessary treatment of important creatures.

yes, and after sharks and dolphins, what's next?

yes, and after sharks and dolphins, what's next?

What's this world coming to? We need to save these beautiful creatures.

Salven a los tiburones.

Salven a los tiburones.

Shark finning has been going on for years to feed the ever growing Asian populations. They don't give one damn about the fact that they are hunting these top preditors into extinction in a horrible fashion. I am in favor of any laws here in the US that prohibit the sale of shark fins and shark fin soup, but that will only put a dent in the disaster about to happen. When 20 million year old top preditors are gone, it is hard to know what will happen to the ballance of power in our oceans. I have a solution, but it would not be seen favorably in most parts of the world.


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