The shark species have inhabited the planet for over 440 million years and through many mass extinction events but in just twenty years there has been a severe decline of hammerhead sharks Sphyrnidae with reports of the balance of life shifting in the sea due to the demand for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is believed to have many good qualities but is it worth decimating a species?
The fin markets in China and Hong Kong state that shark fin soup is a delicacy dating back to Chinas ming dynasty with thousands being caught each year primarily for the far east. Hong Kong accounts for more than half of all the fins traded worldwide,withthe Emperor in the Sung Dynasty (AD 968) serving the first expensive dish known as “fish wing” which is just becoming known to be “shark fin” by the consumers which are also unaware of the suffering that follows.
Shark fin soup can range from $5 a bowl up to $2,000 depending on the type and style of shark fin served. The fins add no colour, taste or smell but the cartilage adds texture, the flavour actually comes from other meat stocks and additional artificial coloursadded to make it more appealing, the shark fin is essentially symbolic showing wealth. There are supposed health benefits that but nothing to support this but instead reports of high levels ofmercury lead the media to advertised women and children to avoid it.
The demand has created a large scale business driving sharks to extinction with fishermen recieving over $100 per kilo of shark fins no matter the size. The sharks caught are harvested in great numbers with tens of millions dying a slow inhumane death often starving, eaten alive or drowning. Chopping off the fins and discarding the still living body into the sea saves space on the boat for more finsas shark meat is of low economical value as the tissue contains urea mainly found in urine, maintaining the shark’s water balance making there meat worthless and changing into ammonia when deceased. Sharks need to keep moving to force water through there gills for oxygen but this is not possible without there fins. The fins only amount to 4% of a shark’s bodyweight, meaning 200,000 tons of sharkmeat are thrown back into the sea and discarded, this unsustainable way of fishing contaminates other fish as the shark releases ammonia when dead and can seriously damage the ecosystem and future of the species.
Sharks are both predators and scavengers, and contribute to eliminating diseased andgenetically-defective animals helping to stabilise fish populations, with the loss of shark reduces competition for food, causing other specie populations to rise. With over 8,000 tones of shark finsbeing shipped to restaurants around the world sharks are getting smaller with less time to mature, this could take a long time for the population to recover with sharks not fully maturing and being removed faster then they can reproduce will cause a collapse of an ecosystem. In many countries like the US, finning is illegal meaning the whole shark has to be brought back to shore to remove fins, limiting the amount of sharks being brought back but may not be enough to reduce the as they have declined so much
After a recent trip to an early morning fish auction to accompany one of my fellow photographers I came across a small number of blue sharks being sold to reputable stores. Each one of these sharks featured in my image would go for over a hundred pounds, now I personally knew about the impact on shark finning but had no clue sharks were caught and sold in the UK, although its being sold whole does this become okay? There was only small numbers but do these come in daily? they are the whole shark but does it still make it okay as the number of species declines dramatically? how can we as a country seek to change that of others if we have not yet changed ourselves?
In my opinion every culture, religion and individual is initialled to there own opinions, beliefs and traditions but when it comes down to destroying a species we need to take a good look at ourselves, I am a great lover of seafood but take pride in making sure my food is repeatable but we all need to work together to change, on our own we can only do so much.
How can you help?
-Eat sustainable seafood
-Do not eat shark fin soup
-Support shark fin bans
-Support the campaigns
For any more information and my sources: