Jaws won't ever look the same.

Photo by avlxyz | flickr.com

If you take a look back at the classic shark horror film, Jaws, you might actually find yourself laughing more than anything (the special effects in today’s films make older films look like amateur work).  Some would even call it silly to be afraid of sharks – after all, they’re the ones who should be afraid of us.

Just like so many of nature’s other resources, there have been reports of hunting and consuming sharks. The reason for it is clear: shark fin soup is considered an Asian delicacy and is comprised of shark fins, with the addition of stock or broth. The fin itself is only added to give texture to the soup. Only upper-class families have previously considered this soup affordable. However, shark fin soup has risen in demand with the uprising of many households into higher socio-economic classes. With such demand came an increase in the hunting of sharks.

The entire process of catching these sharks has major flaws and is in serious need of assessment. Sharks are caught by a method described as long lining, involving microfilaments that entangle any water dwelling animal that bites into it. As such, about 25% of what is caught on these hooks is by-catch, and causes many organisms to die while entangled in the line. These innocent bystanders have included albatross and endangered turtles.

Once the sharks are caught, they are only needed for their fins. As such, a hunter will take the shark on board, cut off their fins, and discard the remains back into the water for others to feed on, often while the shark is still alive.

All of this, just to add some texture to soup?

This increased demand in shark fin soup has caused the shark population to decline majorly. Twenty shark species are identifies as endangered by the World Conservation Union, and many shark species have fallen in number by over 90% (Hammerhead sharks have fallen in numbers by 99%!).

Although the numbers are alarming, the methods to rebuild shark populations are not. We need to stop consuming shark fin soup, and work towards a management policy so that we can rebuild the shark population to its previous numbers. Although perceived asintimidating creatures, sharks serve as an ecological balancer; without them, communities of organisms could collapse. And even if that is of no relevance to someone’s conscience, the inhumane hunting practices will undoubtedly leave a discordant echo.

 Be sure to visit www.stopsharkfinning.net in order to learn more about the issue and how you can make a difference, even from your computer screen. I encourage you to take action, for it is the only way to stop the distasteful practice which is shark finning.