Sharks are among the most endangered species in the modern ecosystem. Sharks are under huge threat from an illegal practice called finning. Shark finning refers to the practice of cutting off the fin of a shark and throwing it back to the sea (Harden par. 5). Although the practice does not involve killing the sharks in order to get their fins, it is still a horrible activity because the animals often endure a lot of pain. Sharks use their fins to breathe and swim, thus the reason they die quickly after they are removed.
Studies have established that shark finning is a highly lucrative business that results in deaths of 26 to 73 million sharks every year (Harden par. 5). Ironically, shark meat is also consumed, but there is a high preference for fins because they have a better market. Shark fins sell at an average of US$400 per kilogram, which makes them one of the most valuable sea foods (Clarke et al. 313).
According to experts, there is a need for immediate action to regulate this trade, which has an estimated value of more than US$ 540 million. There are two categories of sharks depending on their vulnerability. First, there are sharks that are already in danger of becoming extinct. Secondly, there are sharks with low vulnerability to this practice, but could be endangered soon (Clarke et al. 307).
Causes of shark finning
The main cause of shark finning is the high demand for fins, which are used as an ingredient for an Asian delicacy. Shark fins sold in the Asian market are used to make a delicacy called shark fin soup (Harden par. 2). The demand for the Asian delicacy has escalated over the years. This has been influenced by the decision of most countries in the Far East to open their markets to international investors. Studies have established that the delicacy is commonly served at weddings to create an impression on guests (Harden par. 4).
The high demand for the shark fin soup has led to increase in the number of sharks killed every year, as more people want to make money out of the lucrative business. Another cause of this illegal trade is the belief that shark fins help in boosting people’s health and vitality. People in Asia believe that consuming products from animals such as sharks, which are known for their vitality, would help them to become strong (Clarke et al. 307).
Asian people also believe that shark fins have numerous health benefits such boosting one’s immune system. This encouraged people to start this illegal trade in order to satisfy the emerging needs. Others believe that shark fins have chemical elements that can stimulate sexual desire once consumed (Clarke et al. 308).
These beliefs have contributed a lot to the development of this illegal business, as the growing demand has to be met. Lack of effective regulatory measures has also contributed to the development of the trade. Since the people who run this business are not taxed, the ability to make maximum profit motivates others to get involved (Clarke et al. 308).
The nature of shark finning
Shark finning is an exercise conducted in a very brutal manner (Ong par. 4). A shark has six types of fins that play different roles. A shark has the pectoral fins, pelvic fin, anal fin, primary dorsal fin, secondary dorsal fin, and caudal fin. Shark finning applies only when the fins are removed while the animal is still at sea.
However, removing the fins while the shark is on land does may not apply as finning because the shark could have been caught legally (“Shark Finning Isn’t News” par. 6). It is illegal for anyone to treat animals in such a brutal way for the sake of their selfish gains. Finned sharks are left to die in water, thus threatening the lives of other living organisms in their ecosystem. Decomposition of dead sharks often leads to serious destabilization of the marine ecosystem (“Shark Finning Isn’t News” par. 9).
Impact of shark finning
Studies have established that shark finning has serious impacts on individual sharks, their population, and the marine ecosystem. As earlier mentioned, this illegal practice causes a lot of harm and distress to sharks that are affected. Sharks rely on their fins to move, breathe, and hunt (Clarke et al. 313).
Once the fins are removed, the sharks lose their mobility. In such a situation, a shark cannot breathe, swim, or fight their predators. This makes them to suffer a lot and eventually end up dying for lack of food and oxygen. The impacts felt by individual sharks are often transferred to the entire population. Studies have established that shark finning reduces the population of these marine creatures by millions annually.
This is a huge number of sharks lost from an ecosystem that is likely to collapse because there is little reproduction going on (Clarke et al. 316). Over the last couple of decades, the global population of sharks has declined at an alarming rate owing to the huge demand for shark fins and lack of measures to regulate the trade.
For example, in 2102 over 100 million sharks were caught and ripped off their fins for sale on the black market. If the trade is not regulated in time, most of the shark species are going to become extinct. The remaining ones are not given enough time to mature and reproduce before they are caught (Woodroffe par. 6). According to experts, this reality is likely to hit the world in the near future. It takes almost seven years for a shark to mature and start reproducing.
Studies have established that the current population of sharks around the world could be 90% less compared to two or three decades ago (Woodroffe par. 2). According to experts, continued finning of sharks has hugely destabilized the marine ecosystem. One of the main benefits of having a high number of sharks in the marine flora and fauna is stabilization of the ecology by preying on other animals (Woodroffe par. 10).
When the sharks prey on other animals, they give those on the lower end of the food chain a chance to exist and make their contribution towards the maintenance of the ecosystem. This means that a huge reduction or extinction of sharks will lead to overpopulation of certain marine animal species, which will lead to instability. According to experts, sharks are apex predators that form the foundation for supporting the marine ecosystem (Woodroffe par. 5). Eliminating them would lead to a collapse of that ecological unit.
Solutions to shark finning
The first solution for dealing with shark finning is requiring all people selling delicacies with shark fins to acquire licenses (Ong par. 2). In addition to the licenses, these individuals should ensure that the fins are gotten from sharks caught legally. Secondly, the international community should come together and create a convention that will require all countries to ban the sale of shark fins within their borders without a license (Ong par. 4).
For example, the United States of America has a law that prohibits anyone to be caught with a shark fin without its accompanying corpse. This will ensure that fins are only removed from sharks that are caught legally. This will help to maintain the population of sharks in an ecosystem that is evenly balanced.
Putting in place effective restriction measures will reduce the market for shark fins. This will reduce the market for the fins because many people will not be willing to apply for licenses and pay up the necessary fees (Clarke et al. 311). Since the restrictions will accompany certain fees for those selling the shark fins, people will become more cautious before engaging in the trade.
Shark finning is a practice that has put the global population of sharks under the danger of extinction. There is an urgent need to come up with strong and effective solutions that will bring to an end this illegal business. Although there have been numerous campaigns carried out around the world to stop the practice, very little progress has been made in regulating or stopping the trade.
Shark finning has been condemned globally, especially by animal rights activists because of the way it’s done and the suffering that the animals endure thereafter. Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that the numerous campaigns conducted to sensitize the world about the plight of sharks come to fruition. The future of the global shark population is at the mercy of everyone.
Clarke, Shelley, Milner-Gulland, Enock, Bjorndal. Social, Economic, and Regulatory Drivers of the Shark Fin Trade. Marine Resource Economics 22.2(2007): 305-327. Print.
Harden, Michael. Shark Fin Soup Culled in Top Restaurant. 2012.
Ong, Andrew. Restaurants, Hotels Urged to “Say No to Shark Fin”. 2014.
Shark Finning Isn’t News: Africa News Service. 2012.
Woodroffe, Georgia. Shark Finning: The Thin Edge. 2014.