Shark finning is a huge environmental issue that is commonly overlooked. 100 million sharks are killed for their fins globally each year, that’s 11,417 per hour. Sharks are caught, their fins cut off, and their still live bodies are discarded back into the ocean, where they drown. These fins are used in various ways: firstly, larger fins, for example those of whale sharks, are kept in bars or restaurants as ‘trophies’ or ‘mascots’. Secondly, their fins are used to make shark fin soup; a delicacy for some. The fins themselves are made purely of cartilage, and so have no flavour. Instead, chicken stock is added to give the soup some taste, with the fins being purely for decoration or to maintain the soup’s prestigious name. Shark fin soup is thought to have certain health benefits by the surrounding communities, however studies have shown that it actually tests positive for high levels of neurotoxins that trigger Alzheimers and other degenerative brain diseases.
As well as the consumption of shark fins being directly harmful to humans, the industry of shark finning is also having detrimental effects on the ecosystem that is the ocean. Sharks are an integral part of many food webs. As they are apex predators, they help keep other marine life in a healthy balance, for example preventing the overconsumption of plankton, which helps to moderate climate change. As well as this, sharks also help to maintain healthy prey populations. As they target only ill or injured prey, they help to prevent the
spread of disease and also improve the gene pool. Lastly, sharks also keep vital habitats healthy. For example, tiger sharks patrol areas of seagrass, which are essential for some species, and prevent turtles from overgrazing on them. This seagrass also oxygenates the water and maintains lower CO2 levels, and is therefore essential to the health of our oceans.
With over half of shark species now listed as endangered, we need to act now to save these important creatures. There are many conservationists working to fulfill this goal, and all the money raised by Fintastic will go to Love the Oceans, one of the leading organisations working for such conservation, of which we are a supporting partner.