Shark fin soup, what was once a delicacy in China, is now becoming increasingly popular among the middle class and other Asian nations. While it is still the most popular in China, it is also spreading to the West; European demand has grown significantly in the past few decades.
Unfortunately, the demand for shark fin soup creates a demand for shark fins. This has led to an increase in the practice of “finning.” This is the act of removing the (tasteless) fins from the shark and discarding the body–an incredibly wasteful practice. The shark is then left to drown or die of starvation.
Sharks are prone to overfishing because they are slow-growing, late-maturing, long-lived species. A study released by Pew Environment Group and TRAFFIC concluded that of the top 20 shark-finning nations accounting for nearly 80 percent of the global shark catch, only a select few nations have well-managed shark fisheries.
In response to this growing problem, many governments have made efforts to increase the protection of shark species. International shark policies range from fragmented fin bans to comprehensive conservation strategies. Just recently, a Chinese policymaker has proposed that China ban the trade of shark fins. This could be a huge step in the right direction as shark fin soup has long been associated with Chinese tradition and culture.
In 2010, the European Parliament requested the European Commission to amend existing shark regulation, including a ban on at-sea fin removal.
The United States is also a supporter of shark fin fisheries. In 2010, Hawaii became the first state to completely ban the sale, distribution and possession of shark fins. In early 2011 the U.S. passed the Shark Conservation Act, implimenting stricter regulations on shark finning and in February of this year, California legislators propsed a ban prohibiting all commerce of shark fins.
This surge in efforts to regulate finning could be turning point for sharks.
Copyright © 2011 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC