Imagine the population of Mexico disappearing within a year. Japan, the year after that, followed by Australia and the UK.
It’s a frightening vision for the future of humans, but reality for one of the Earth’s most threatened marine species.
One hundred million sharks are slaughtered every year for their fins, Sharks.org reports. Fishermen slice the sharks’ fins off and toss the less valuable, mutilated shark back into the water, where it will subsequently die from blood loss or suffocation.
Approximately 50 million more sharks die annually as bycatch in unregulated fisheries, often through the use of destructive and indiscriminate fishing methods such as longlines, gillnets, and trawls, the Animal Welfare Institute reports. The international shark fin trade is largely unregulated, so sharks caught accidentally are routinely killed for their fins.
Shark finning continues to threaten dozens of species of endangered sharks in the name of shark fin soup — a traditionally aristocratic delicacy that has a newfound niche in China’s emerging middle class.
In the past 20 years or so, the demand for shark-fin soup has rocketed, Discover Wildlife reports. It is still associated with privilege and social rank – a bowl of soup can cost up to $100 – but the explosive growth in the Chinese economy means that hundreds of millions of people can now afford this luxury. Many consider it de rigueur at important events such as weddings, birthdays, business banquets and during Chinese New Year celebrations.
This outmoded tradition began as a way for the wealthy to show superiority over the apex predators of the ocean, and to impress their guests with barbaric prowess. According to Shark Conservation Australia, shark meat has virtually no taste, and may contain dangerous levels of mercury, making it unsafe to eat.
More than 25% of known shark species are now on the verge of extinction, which has interrupted the balance of countless oceanic ecosystems, and has had huge economic impacts, the WWF reports.
Sharks play an important role in the maintenance of their habitats. According to the Census on Marine Life, when their numbers drop — as they have been, due to exploitation and slow recovery rates — a ripple effect can disrupt the populations of their prey, and their prey’s prey, ultimately costing fisheries and the larger community a lot more than the few hundred dollars per shark market price.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty has been fighting to preserve sharks for decades, yet only offers protections for eight shark species — a mere fraction of those that are threatened with extinction from finning. Click below to demand CITES Secretary-General to ramp up efforts, and to expand the protective scope of CITES to include all threatened, vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered sharks.Whizzco