Yes, you read that correctly. 10 sharks died in the last 3 seconds, while you were reading that headline. It should no longer come to a surprise to you that, over 100 million sharks are being killed each year for shark fin.
Shark Fin Soup has been considered a delicacy in Chinese tradition, ever since the time of the emperors. Its popularity is due to its symbolizing wealth and triumph over the powerful shark and has not faded till today.
The Horrors of Shark Finning
Why do fishermen resort to shark finning? Well, shark fins can be sold for as much as $1,100 per kilogram. Being regarded as of high value, fishermen have thus hunted them relentlessly for years.
To get a hold of the fins, fishermen often use cruel and inhumane methods of capturing and killing the sharks. Sharks are brought on board the ship where their fins are cut off.
They are then dumped back into the ocean, left to die by suffocation, or eaten by other predators as the rest of the body is not as valuable.
Can you imagine this?
Instead of being given a swift death, your limbs are being chopped off and you have to suffer helplessly with the knowledge that your fate is already sealed, slowly sinking and drowning. What a horrible way to die.
3 Reasons Why Sharks Are Important to the Environment
1. Sharks Help to Keep the Rest of the Ecosystem in Check
As the top predators in the ocean food chain, sharks help to keep the natural ecosystems in balance.
Sharks feed on smaller marine creatures, limiting their population numbers, which in turn allows even smaller creatures or plants to grow. This process is also known as Trophic Cascade.
One example of these creatures is Scallops. Due to shark numbers decreasing, the population of Cownose Rays, which the sharks prey on, has increased. These rays consume scallops, clams, oysters, and other shellfish that help to filter algae from the water.
In turn, this has resulted in a drop in the shellfish population as well, leading to the losses of entire fist farming industries in the US.
This is not good news for all you seafood lovers out there as this might cause the prices of fish and shellfish to increase.
2. Without Sharks, the Oceans Might “Turn Green”
With lesser shellfish, algae and phytoplankton could bloom uncontrollably, leading to algal blooms. You might have seen algal blooms in the news before like in China, where massive blooms have occurred in the past.
These blooms take over entire waterways, causing beaches, waterfronts, and rivers. Imagine the beautiful Singapore waterfront being clogged up with slimy, green algae. It would be very unsightly and disgusting to see!
These blooms also pollute water by releasing toxins into the water that cause sickness or even death. This causes large disruptions to industries and water supplies leading to large inconveniences.
For countries like Singapore that rely so heavily on shipping, this could be all the more troubling.
3. Killing Sharks Leads to More Carbon Released Into the Atmosphere
Additionally, another reason why sharks are important to the environment is due to their status as being large stores of carbon in the ocean. But what exactly is a carbon store?
Well, carbon stores are reservoirs that hold carbon inside it, preventing it from returning to the environment and contributing to global warming as carbon dioxide.
When talking about animals being carbon stores, it is usually the case where the bigger an animal grows, the more carbon is stored in its body. With sharks being able to grow to great sizes, they help store a huge amount of carbon.
So, what happens when a shark dies?
Under normal circumstances, this carbon is released back into the ocean as food for other fish or in its carcass. However, when taken out of the ocean, this carbon is released into the atmosphere.
Multiply this amount of carbon with the hundreds of millions of sharks being killed and it results in an enormous amount introduced into the atmosphere from the ocean, contributing to climate change.
Why You Should Stop Eating Shark Fin Soup
Have you ever heard your friends or relatives saying that shark fin soup can improve your health, complexion, or even prevent heart diseases?
Well, these are nothing but misconceptions and there has been no scientific research that proves these claims. It has been shown that eating sharks can instead be bad for health.
A recent study has shown that some of the most common types of sharks fin consumed contained 6-10 times the healthy level of mercury. This mercury is found in sharks because of industrial activity that releases it into the environment which then dissolves into seawater.
Some effects of mercury poisoning according to the National Institutes of Health are:
- Numbness or pain in certain parts of your skin
- Uncontrollable shaking or tremor
- Inability to walk well
- Blindness and double vision
- Memory problems
- Seizures and death (with large exposures)
What Can YOU Do To Help?
“What Can I Do About It When the Shark Is Killed Even Before I Order a Bowl of Soup?”
The most important thing you can do is to stop supporting restaurants and businesses that sell shark products. There are no such things as “sustainable shark fisheries”, and the only way to signal to producers that we do not want them to kill so many sharks is by simply boycotting shark products.
This movement is already going strong in Singapore as a study conducted by the WWF in 2016 showed that 82% of Singaporeans had not consumed shark fin for at least a year due to shark protection (53%) and environmental reasons (44%).
Many hotels and restaurants here like Marina Bay Sands, Hyatt hotel, and Shangri-La Singapore have banned shark’s fin from their menus.
Other Ways to Stop Shark Finning
Sharing this issue with people who do not know about the impacts of shark finning can helps raise awareness.
Actions can also speak louder than words. Declining to eat that delicious bowl of shark fin soup may have an even greater impact on others than simply telling them about it.
However, do remember to take these steps respectfully as some people may feel declining food is rude. To do this you could let your hosts know in advance that you do not eat shark’s fin. This gives them time to accommodate your preferences before ordering.
Other things you can do to stand against finning include:
- Pledging to say no to shark fin
- Contributing to international efforts to petition for the banning of shark trade like Project Aware
- Contributing to conservation funds to support projects that support shark conservation like the org and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
- Raising awareness about shark finning by sharing it with others
- Consider alternatives like fish maw or sea cucumber instead of shark fin soup
The next time you’re thinking of what to eat, remember all the suffering the sharks have to go through just to bring you a bowl of soup. Ask yourself if it was worth it and if your conscience is truly clear after knowing all this.
Be the change you want to see in the world today. Even if you feel that your actions might be insignificant, you never know when someone else might be watching. Every voice matters in this rally against shark’s fin, do your part today, and save the sharks.