Shark finning, or simply finning, is the brutal practice of hacking off a shark’s fins for food, normally used for the Asian delicacy, shark fin soup.
Once their fins are hacked off, the sharks are thrown back into the sea. They then die slowly and painfully as they starve to death, get eaten by other fish or suffocate because they cannot swim properly and enough oxygen into their gills.
Tens of millions of sharks are killed every year at a rapid speed to keep up with the demand for shark fins on the black market. This cruel practice has caused sharks to become endangered worldwide. Several species are now at a critically endangered level with almost 95% of their population killed off since the 1970s.
- Blacktip Sharks have fallen by 93%;
- Tiger Sharks by 97%;
- Bull Sharks, Dusky Sharks and Smooth Hammerheads by 99%.
Many people are unsupportive of the decline of sharks and the cruelty of finning. This is due to two factors.
- The shark is not a ‘loveable’ animal and is unjustly seen as a monster. Because of the movie industry, notably Jaws, sharks such as the Great White are seen as vicious man-eaters. This is an unfounded stereotype used only to promote movies and television and to entertain people. Unfortunately, many people have taken this image to heart. However, when one actually reads about sharks in scientific reports, journals and articles, one finds that they do not seek out humans for food and are actually docile creatures. It has been proven that the odds of a shark killing you are extremely slim and there are many other animals much more violent and dangerous than sharks.
- People are ignorant of the importance of sharks. Coupled with their publicity as terrifying monsters, people do not educate themselves about sharks and some are indifferent to shark finning. The consequences of the decline in sharks are dire. If sharks become extinct, the ocean will lose a key part of its eco-system. As an apex predator, the shark is integral in keeping certain populations at bay. A lack of sharks on the east coast of the USA has seen a decline in shellfish because sharks are not there to balance the small shark, ray and skate populations who mainly eat shellfish. Imagine if all lions were extinct; there would be an overpopulation of herbivores.
How you can help
Luckily, there are many compassionate people and organisations that are banding together to fight the shark fin trade, especially in the USA. In South Africa, shark finning is illegal but there are many other countries where it is not, such as Mozambique. You can aid the international campaign by visiting these sites and signing the petitions or donating money to end shark finning.
Shark Diving Unlimited is one organisation that, not only advocates for sharks, but uses their resources for research and conservation; educating the public on the importance of these animals. With another amazing Shark Week behind us, let us all take action and help preserve the species.