The spotlight focus this week for African Shark Eco Charters falls upon shark finning. Upon doing some research and seeing the damage caused on our environment, I am outraged and shocked at the impact of shark finning. So today’s blog is going to be about shark finning, its impact, and what can be done to prevent it.
So what is shark finning and where does it originate from? There is no accurate record of where finning originated from but it can be dated back to the 14th Century as a delicacy for nobles and aristocrats in China for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup was considered a rare delicacy signifying wealth and power. As time progressed, in the 18th & 19th Century, it become a more mainstream delicacy with commercial fishing and trading normalising the influx of shark fins.
As shark fins became more popularised, it became integrated into Chinese traditional medicine with the belief that shark fins have the ability to rejuvenate bodily organs, prevent cancer, heart disease and lower cholesterol. There is no medical evidence of any health benefits of shark fins soup to date.
So what is the effect of finning? Well, due to the increase of shark fin soup over the years, many species of sharks are being “harvested” in larger numbers. This has caused a 95% decimation of the shark species since the 1970s, with an estimated 70-100 million sharks being caught and killed for their fins each year! The process of finning is a brutal and incredibly cruel practice.
So how are the sharks caught?
PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS EXPLICIT IN NATURE.
The brutal practice begins with catching sharks with longlines, gillnets and spears. They are lugged onto the boat where they begin to suffocate. The fishermen then slice off their fins, while the sharks are alive, and eventually throw them back overboard into the water where they slowly sink to the ocean bed, unable to swim, stressed and weakened from their ordeal, to either die a slow death of blood loss, starvation, drowning (shark gills require a constant flow of oxygen, which is extracted from the water while moving) or to be eaten alive by bottom-feeders such as crustaceans.
In terms of the impact of the apex predator knocked off the top of the food chain, the ocean will be thrown off balance. Sharks tend to hunt weaker, sickly and injured fish causing a sustainable amount of the herbivorous smaller fish population. A decline in sharks means an increase in larger predatory fish meaning a larger amount of herbivorous fish being eaten. This means that there is less fish to eat the algae causing an overgrow of suffocating algae, which in turn, causes an extinction of fish species due to the ammonia toxicity of the green slime.
How can we stop the effects of shark finning? The difficulty in shark finning conservation is the ignorance about sharks and how important they are. Hence, educating others about sharks, i.e. learn more from our blogs 😉 and joining campaigns is an important first step in the right direction. I have created a list for you below:
- Don’t eat shark fin soup
- Support organisations aimed at saving marine wildlife such as Sea Shepherd, the Humane Society International and Wild Aid
- Participate in campaigns such as the “no shark fin” pledge
- Use social media positively to advocate and create awareness of shark and Eco conservation