At Scubafish we are continually raising awareness of the fact that Sharks are being slaughtered in their millions. We must stop the brutal killing of these magnificent, valuable creatures. Sharks need our help.
Lets make a Shark fin-free Chinese New Year, this year and every year!
Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of all the Chinese holidays and celebrations. This year it takes place from the 10th to the 25th February. One of the delicacies which is served on this occasion is Shark fin soup.
More than 80 million Sharks are killed worldwide each year and most of these are killed in a barbaric, inhumane way. This is a dramatic exploitation of the Shark population, destroying the largest ecosystem in the world, something which can never be undone. There will be far-reaching and dramatic consequences, within our own lifetimes, and for generations to come.
If we don’t act now, the seas will die off within a few decades and with them, 70% of the means for generating oxygen on our planet.
In the last 50 years, the slaughter of Sharks has risen by 400%, and by 2017, some scientists anticipate that 20 species of Shark could become extinct.
Sharks are ‘Apex’ Predators, with no predators of their own, occupying a position at the top of the underwater food chain. Sharks have helped maintain the balance of marine life in our oceans for over 400 million years. When they are hunted and killed and disappear from the oceans, the entire eco-system suffers dramatically. Losing these top predators has a devastating impact on our underwater ecosystems, causing the food chains to collapse and local economies to be affected.
As global Shark populations continue to decline, some by more than 90 percent, in the last two decades, scientists fear a catastrophe. The fishing industry is catching, killing or finning them at such an astonishing rate that Shark populations have no chance to regenerate, causing real fears that Shark species will become extinct in the very near future.
For many Shark species, time has already run out. According to a North Atlantic study by Dalhousie University in Halifax, U.S.A, an average of 80% of all deep-sea Sharks have disappeared over the last six years, hunted, caught and finned.
A Shark’s lifespan makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Sharks take between 7 and 30+ years to reach sexual or reproductive maturity. They have a long lifespan but produce few offspring during this lifetime. This means that it takes a Shark population a long time to recover once they have been depleted. Fishermen report that Sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.
Shark Fin Industry
‘Shark finning‘ refers to ‘the removal and retention of Shark fins and the discard of their carcass at sea.’
These intelligent creatures do feel pain and are captured at sea, after fighting for hours, if not days, on long lines and then hauled on deck. Sharks are often still alive when their fins are hacked off with a hot blade. Fishermen are mainly interested in the fins, as the shark meat is of low economical value. The maimed Sharks are usually still alive when they’re tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the Shark slowly sinks to the bottom, where it may suffer predation from other fish, or die a slow painful death from blood loss, starvation or suffocation. Most Sharks need to keep moving, to force water through their gills, in order to breathe. Sharks can take hours or even days to die after being finned. Up to 99% of the Shark is thrown away, a process as wasteful and inhumane, as slaughtering an elephant for it’s tusks.
Shark fins are sold either dried, or in the form of prepared foods. These products are sold legally around the world, and can be found throughout Asia, as well as in most major cities, typically in areas called ‘Chinatowns.’
Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient in the Asian delicacy ‘Shark Fin Soup.’ Demand for Shark fin soup has rocketed in recent years, due to population growth and increased prosperity of Chinese and other Asian populations.
Shark fins sell for more than £450 per kilogram and a single Whale Shark pectoral fin can sell for up to £32,000.
In the past, Chinese Emperors ate Shark fin soup because it was rare, difficult to prepare, and implied prestige. Shark fin soup, which costs £75+ per bowl, has been served at New Year celebrations, banquets, weddings and corporate events for over 2,000 years. Hosts serve Shark Fin soup to impress their guests with a show of affluence. As a result of China’s expanding economy and rising affluence, an increasing number of people can now afford the soup. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes. Though Shark fin soup represents status in Asian culture, the fin itself adds no flavour to the soup, it just provides a gelatinous texture, the flavour coming from chicken or other stock. It neither adds nutritional, nor medicinal value. Studies have shown that the consumption of Shark fin poses a serious threat to human health, as they contain an extremely high concentration of mercury and other toxins. Some of the dangers of mercury include; foetal damage, infertility, increased risk of heart disease and neurological damage.
Over the last 30 years, the number of people eating Shark fin has risen from a few million in the 1980s to more than 300 million today. But WildAid says few are aware of the Shark finning process or the effect on the Shark population.
Global trade in Shark fins is increasing, and the market for Shark fin soup is estimated to be growing by 5% per year, placing an unsustainable demand on Shark populations.
Sadly, while Shark fin soup is the main reason for the hunting and barbaric slaughter of Sharks, there are many other demands for bi-products of Shark. Supermarkets, health food shops, pet shops, beauty salons and your local restaurant, could be selling Shark products right under your nose. Certain energy drinks, pet supplements and chew toys, vitamins, lotions, vaccines and even lipsticks, are all known to contain traces of Shark.
What’s being done?
There are few countries and laws that have actually banned Shark fishing, and those that have, restrictions on Shark fishing and finning have not been successfully enforced.
Project AWARE are working to close the loopholes in Shark legislation, support the establishment of effective MPA networks and engage divers in underwater research, data collection and awareness projects.
WildAid since 2000, their Shark Conservation Program has successfully elevated the international profile of Sharks and has highlighted the importance of global Shark conservation. This has contributed to the achievement of finning legislation in the European Union, victories in key US states, international protection for three Shark species and a UN resolution addressing the Shark finning problem, as well as a significant decrease in consumption of Shark fins in key Asian countries. They have engaged a unique network of media partners enabling them to reach one billion people each week, with high-impact messaging, with the help of their international ambassador Yao Ming, who notably swore off Shark fin soup in 2006.
IUCN, a Shark specialist group, have proposed a fin to body weight ratio for fishers. Some countries have finning legislation that stipulates fins must arrive in a 5% weight ratio of the carcasses on board, which is by no means a solution, as this does not stop the practice of Shark finning, and instead, provides a loophole for savvy fishermen to continue this practice.
Films such as SharkWater aim to raise public awareness about the plight of these beautiful, but misunderstood, apex predators. The SharkWater documentary exposes the abuse in the Shark fin industry and the damage it is causing to our ocean’s ecosystems. It also uncovers government corruption supporting the industry.
Although Shark fining violates the UN food and agriculture organizations code of conduct, it is hard to police because this process is done at sea in international waters. Some see the best approach to help combat Shark finning is to educate the consumer. WildAid’s slogan ‘When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too’ may be the only real way to curb the problem.
Scubafish continues to support events and causes that raise awareness about Shark Finning and other environmental issues facing our oceans and marine life.
Living, working and diving off Ko Lanta, a small island community in Southern Thailand, gives us a unique opportunity to understand and share information with local islanders, to whom fishing is a part of their everyday life. We also inform the tourists who come to dive, snorkel and admire the beautiful reefs. We hope that, by coming into contact with such a diverse mixture of people from around the world, we can continue to spread the word, educate and ask them to help us to protect our oceans’ top predators.
Love Sharks, they are not our enemies.
Facts about Sharks
- Sharks have been around for more than 400 million years
- There are over 400 different species of Shark
- Sharks are intelligent and can be trained
- More than 80 million Sharks are killed each year for their fins
- The largest Shark is the Whale Shark, averaging 9 metres (30 feet) in length—the size of a large bus
- Whale Sharks are not aggressive. They eat zooplankton, small fish and squid
- Over fishing can have a dangerous effect on Sharks. The whale shark, for example, has to live to be 30 years old before it can reproduce, and its life span lasts between 60 and 100 years. As a result, it can’t reproduce fast enough to keep the population going
- When a Shark loses a tooth, a new one grows in its place
- Mako and Blue Sharks are the fastest swimming Sharks
- Sharks can take hours or even days to die after being finned
- Sharks are a critical part of marine ecosystems
- Question: What is more dangerous to people – a Shark or a wasp/bee? Answer: wasp/bee Every year, 100 people die from wasp or bee stings, yet hundreds of millions of people go swimming, and Sharks kill only about six people a year. Only about 25 sharks have been known to actually attack people. Every year, people kill millions of Sharks
- Bad publicity about Sharks has given them the reputation of being vicious man-eaters. In fact, only 10 out of all the Shark species are considered dangerous to humans and of these, attacks are extremely rare
How you can help
- First and foremost, do not buy food containing Shark fin
- Tell your friends and relatives that they may be contributing to the irreversible decline of Shark populations. Make them aware of the potential disastrous consequences
- Always opt for environmental and sustainable alternatives and substitutes
- Sign WildAid’s Shark pledge vowing to lend your voice to the 73 million Sharks whose fins are used in shark fin soup every year
- Sign the Project AWARE ‘Extinction is NOT an option’ petition to send a clear message to policy makers around the world that scuba divers expect effective long-term Shark and Ray protection measures
- Add the Project AWARE Twibbon to your profile picture
- Take action for Shark conservation: Shark research, data collection, support campaigns, stop the demand and help raise Shark awareness worldwide
- Sign the Manta Watch Petition ‘Save Manta Rays in Indonesia.’ Sign the petition today, and encourage Indonesia’s Minster for the Environment to lead manta conservation in the Coral Triangle
Manta Rays are under attack too
These beautiful angels of the deep are being rapidly driven to extinction. Mantas are close cousins of Sharks and are part of the same family (Elasmobranchii family). As the Shark population declines, other rays, including the Manta are used to augment the shark fin supply, their cartilage being mixed with low-grade Shark fin. There is an increasing demand for Manta, Mobula and Devil Ray’s cartilage, gills and meat. Mass fisheries in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Japan, and the Philippines, are satisfying this growing demand. With their value dramatically increasing, Mantas everywhere, particularly in Southeast Asia, are under attack, threatening local populations worldwide with extinction.
International trade in these species, driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine, poses an immediate threat to their survival. Demand for their gill rakers, (the tight-knit, feathery structures that filter plankton,) has risen dramatically in the past 10 years, for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Gill rakers can sell for more than £350 per kilogram. Practitioners say the Rays can boost the immune system, by reducing toxins and enhancing blood circulation. Other supposed medical benefits include; curing cancer, chickenpox, throat and skin ailments, kidney problems and infertility.
Manta populations are in grave danger. Mantas have been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). They are at particular risk of over-fishing because, like Sharks, they produce very few young. Many populations have already been depleted by unregulated fishing practises. Although legally protected in some nations and specific aggregation areas, these gentle giants migrate to unprotected waters of other countries and the high seas.
Mantas are highly susceptible to over-fishing, even more so than Sharks. A single fishing fleet can easily wipe out a local Manta population in weeks or months, as the Rays tend to group together.
Websites – Shark and Manta Conservation:
- Project AWARE
- IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- Shark Trust
- Shark Gaurdian
- ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research
- Manta Ray of Hope
- Manta Watch
- Manta Trust
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