Another Species Disappearing due to Human Hands

Economic reward has enticed some of the most grotesque behavior toward animals, from ripping out elephants’ tusks to pulling out horns from the heads of rhinos. Sharks are no exception to this form of cruelty by mankind. Each year, approximately 100 million sharks are left fin-less victims, unable to fend for themselves. This common fishermen practice, known as finning, has an especially high monetary value and is most commonly found in a dish by the name of shark fin soup. Still, many sharks are killed illegally, through unregulated fishing. At the current rate, scientists estimate sharks could very likely disappear off the face of the Earth. 

The gruesome finning process not only causes the sharks physical pain, but leaves them unable to function normally, consequently killing them. When a shark is caught, it is pulled out of the water and immediately stripped of its fins, only to be thrown back in. Without fins, sharks are incapable of swimming and fall to the ocean floor. They are left to roll or drift against the sand and suffer a slow and miserable death from blood loss, or even suffocation. 

While fishing for sharks has negative impacts, making money as well as finding jobs can be burdensome, and families need to be supported. The South China Morning Post describes actions taken by an Indonesian fisherman, stating that he only catches the sharks that “are not on the government’s list of prohibited species, such as grey reef sharks and tiger sharks.” Just because one fishes sharks for a living does not mean they are a cruel person, especially if they are following regulations and trying their best not to cause harm. 

Along with profit, finning also has a cultural significance. According to Smithsonian Ocean, shark fin soup has been a symbol of status in Chinese culture since ancient times, as well as serving medicinal value to those able to consume it. The demand for the dish is high in China, and is not always cheap. It is commonly served in restaurants, with the fin a gelatin texture, and only the broth containing true flavor. 

While the fishermen are only trying to support their families, their actions may cause catastrophic losses of the shark population and even affect the entire marine ecosystem. Similar to any ecosystem, each tier of the food chain is vital. Any large-scale disruption to the marine ecosystem could lead to drastic and deadly effects. Apex predators are necessary to keep control of other species populations. Sharks feed on herbivorous fish, which keeps the fish population in check; they eat just enough to keep coral reefs and the seabeds healthy and stable. Therefore, if sharks were to be taken away from the equation, the fish population would grow dramatically, causing overeating. Consequently, the oceans’ coral reefs would disappear.

Some countries are taking steps to prevent the massive abuse and depopulation of sharks. In the United states, sharks must be brought to shore with their fins still attached to their bodies. This saves the sharks from the pain of being sliced apart alive, which makes fishing them less abusive. China’s rules are more relaxed– although it is illegal to serve shark fin soup at official banquets, countless restaurants and stores still serve and sell the delicacy. 

Fortunately, there are many things people can do to address this issue, both big or small. Recycling and not littering helps less trash get into our oceans, which not only helps the sharks but the whole ocean as well. Never use any product that contains sharks; boycotts are a a great way to slow the production of such products. There are also charities or conservation companies that could be donated to, including Friends for Sharks, The Shark Trust, Fin Fighters, Gills Club and Shark Spotters.

Sharks need help, and we have the tools to help them.