Negombo, Sri Lanka. 20/04/2011
Approximately 100 million sharks are killed globally each year, and one of the major incentives for this is the shark fin trade.
Shark fins are tempting targets for fishermen because they have high monetary and cultural value. They are used in a popular dish called shark fin soup, which is a symbol of status in Chinese culture. In the past, Chinese Emperors favored the soup as a dish that honored guests because it was thought to have medicinal benefits and represented a victory against powerful sharks. This popularity has not faded with time and has even expanded with China’s growing population. Today shark fin soup is still prevalent and has become a staple for more than just emperors on special occasions. As a result, fishermen have a large incentive to gather and sell shark fins.
Many fishermen prefer to practice shark finning instead of bringing whole sharks to the market because the fins are far more valuable than the rest of the body, sometimes selling for as much as $500 a pound ($1,100 a kilogram). Instead, fishermen choose to keep just the shark fins—only one to five percent of a shark’s weight—and throw the rest of the shark away rather than have the less valuable parts take up space on the boat. The finned sharks are often thrown back into the ocean alive, where they do not die peacefully: unable to swim properly and bleeding profusely, they suffocate or die of blood loss.
However, the animal cruelty implications are not the only reason to stop this practice. Another major factor is that shark fisheries—and finning in particular—are having catastrophic effects on shark populations around the world. Approximately 100 million sharks are killed globally each year, and one of the major incentives for this is the shark fin trade. With their slow growth and low reproductive rates, sharks are highly susceptible to extinction, and it is difficult for many shark species to replenish their populations as quickly as they are being diminished. Many species of sharks are currently in danger due to shark finning, including the scalloped hammerhead, which is endangered, and the smooth hammerhead, which is vulnerable according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Between 1.3 and 2.7 million of just these two sharks are killed every year in the shark fin trade, and the northwestern Atlantic population of the scalloped hammerhead declined from around 155,500 in 1981 to 26,500 in 2005. Today, some shark populations have decreased by 60-70% due to human shark fisheries.