Give us Back our Fins: How Shark Finning is Destroying Marine Ecosystems

shark-674867_960_720Shark finning is the cruel act of removing a sharks fins (most often whilst the shark is still alive) for consumption in an Asian delicacy dish known as Yu Tu (which literally translates to fish wing) or as it’s better known, shark fin soup. Although it’s named shark fin soup, the taste is usually chicken or pork, this means that the shark fin is only used to create a glutinous texture. Shark fin has a high mercury content, this means that if it is consumed of a regular basis, it has the potential to cause infertility. Current estimations, by the organisation The Shark Trust, suggest that around 26-73 million sharks are caught each year for their fins; this is equivalent to about 5-10% of the current human population size every year. Sharks reproduce slowly, this means the rate at which they are reproducing doesn’t match the rate at which they are being caught and finned. As a result of this, there are now 135 species of rays, skates and sharks listed as ‘under threat’ from becoming extinct and a further 106 listed as near threatend.

Sharks are the apex predators in the ocean, the loss of sharks would have catastrophic affects on the ecosystem and food chain/web of the areas at which they lived. One such example would be the black tip reef shark, most typically found (believe it or not) on reefs. If the black tip reef shark was to be removed from a reef ecosystem there would be an increase in the sharks natural prey animals, the increase in the secondary predator would lead to a decrease in herbivores because there would be more predators feasting on them. This can lead to a mis-balance in the ecosystems food chains and food webs which can thus lead to an ecosystems collapse.

However, there are some things that can be done to prevent the complete loss of shark from our oceans. One solution would be limiting the number of sharks caught on a daily basis allowing for shark numbers to replenish in areas of severe shark capture. Another solution is changing the recipe of shark fin soup to something that gives a similar texture, for example melon or other similar fish.

-C

Glossary

Apex – The top or highest part of something

 

To read more about shark fin soup, or to aid the campaigns against it, visit: https://www.sharktrust.org/en/shark_fin_soup

To read more about how overfishing if affecting coral reefs, visit our blog entitled ‘How Overfishing Is Destroying Coral Reefs’

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