I'll admit that when I swim in the ocean, I have thought more than a few times about the presence of sharks. I guess it's like walking in grizzly bear country or in mountain lion habitat. In these environs, we are not top dog, and it's human nature to have a pang of fear.
© Mass. Dept. of Fisheries
But, as a general matter, these creatures have a lot more to fear from us. Sharks especially. There are a few human victims each year of shark attacks. But there are more than 100 million successful human attacks on sharks.
To meet the demand for shark fin soup—a few strands of shark collagen in chicken or fish broth—tens of millions of sharks are killed annually in oceans around the world. Reported in writings of the Ming Dynasty, shark fin soup was once limited to Chinese emperors and the very elite. But since the 1980s the popularity of this delicacy, which can sell for as much as $100 per bowl, has grown in China and Asia.
The sharks’ fins are cut off when the fish are still alive; then the mutilated sharks are thrown back into the sea to perish.
If a fishing crew takes a whole shark, the boat soon runs out of freezer space and fishing must stop. If the crew takes only the valuable fins, dries them, and throws the rest of the shark back to sea, it can carry on fishing, killing a mammoth number of sharks.
For a time, the only country that required all sharks be landed whole was Costa Rica. We've advocated that other countries follow suit, and recently El Salvador and Colombia both enacted “fins-attached” legislation. We are pushing the United Nations to adopt a resolution that requires sharks be landed whole.
Here at home, if you see shark fin on a restaurant menu, please speak with the management and ask them to stop serving it. Also, here at home, we are opposing shark killing contests. We need not make victims of these creatures to satisfy our egos or our appetites.