By Jennifer Mishler, Ecorazzi
Every year, as many as 100 million sharks are killed by humans (the numbers reported range from 73 million to 100 million). As the Florida Museum of Natural History’s study of international shark attacks found, there have only been 2,463 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks on humans worldwide from 1580 to 2011. Of those, 471 were fatal.
The demand for shark fins is a big force behind the hunt for sharks. The fins, usually removed before the sharks are thrown back into the water alive, are used in shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The overfishing of shark populations is leading to the decline of the ocean’s apex predators, and the Pew Environment Group has found that some of the fins are coming from endangered species of sharks.
According to TreeHugger, Pew and Stony Brook University scientists have been joined by shark attack survivors for a study of shark fin samples. The survivors wanted to raise awareness for the increasingly endangered animals. “We were all in the ocean to begin with because we love it. If we can stick up for sharks, that turns a lot of heads. We all wanted to turn something really bad into something with a positive impact, then our suffering wasn’t for nothing,” said Debbie Salamone, who helped to organize the study, and was bitten by a shark ten years ago off the coast of Florida.
Shark fin samples were taken from soup in fourteen cities across the U.S. and studied for DNA analysis. Of the 33 species of sharks identified from the samples, several were labeled “near-threatened, vulnerable to extinction, or endangered.” Liz Karan of Pew says of the findings, “This is further proof that shark fin soup here in the United States, not just in Asia, is contributing to the global decline in sharks.”
“US consumers of shark fin soup cannot be certain of what’s in their soup. They could be eating a species that is in serious trouble,” Demian Chapman, who helped study the found DNA, told AFP. Species included the endangered scalloped hammerhead shark, vulnerable-to-extinction smooth hammerhead, spiny dogfish and school sharks, and near-threatened bull and copper sharks.
Shark fin bans are slowly being established in countries around the world. In the United States, shark fins have been banned in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, California and Illinois so far. Several states are considering bans, including New York and Maryland.
Image credit: Allan Lee / Flickr