Sharks on the Brink

Who's the real predator?

Shark fins drying in the sun cover the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong on Jan. 2, 2013. Credit: Antony Dickson

Most people wouldn't think of sharks unless reminded by Shark Week on Discovery Channel or reading the rare news of a shark attack. People are scared of sharks and often want to put them out of their mind—especially when vacationing on beaches—but they risk extinction if we don't think of them. Recently, more people have become aware of the shark finning industry and realizing the repercussions that this practice has had on the global populations of sharks. 

Sharks have been caught in astronomical numbers to have their fins harvested and then their bodies chucked into the water because the most  desirable parts of the shark are the fins or the teeth. The sharks then bleed out and sink to the bottom of the ocean floor. It has been reported that 190 sharks are killed a minute. Compared to the 118 provoked and unprovoked shark attacks which occurred last year in 2017, it appears humans are hunting this predator close to extinction.

The shark finning industry is mainly fueled by one delicacy, symbolizing status and power. Aside from trophy fins, these fins are sold to make a delicacy known as shark fin soup. It is eaten in Asian countries, but is served in restaurants and hotels around the world. It has become a highly profitable market.

Sharks face many other threats, such as culling off of the shores of Australia's beaches, South Africa's, and New Zealand's. It has been argued as beneficial in order to keep the populous safe, though there have been recent attempts to stop these measures in exchange for more humane efforts of keeping sharks out of public recreational waters. As more people become aware and begin to rally in support of shark conservation, politicians take notice, and with such successes in support of the sharks as the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act, supported in the US Congress, the question which seems to hang in the air is whether or not these efforts are enough, and if not, how can we protect this vital member of the ocean's ecosystem from extinction? 

Sources:

"Can America Lead the World on Banning the Shark Fin Trade?"

Shark Conservation

Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary

"100 Million Sharks Killed Every Year, Study Shows On Eve of International Conference on Shark Protection"

"Shark Finning: Sharks Turned Prey"

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Sharks on the Brink
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