Have you ever heard of a process called shark finning? Shark finning is the process of only removing a shark’s fins and dumping the body back into the ocean. Sharks die a slow death after having their fins cut off because they cannot swim efficiently without fins. This is because the gills cannot intake a sufficient amount of oxygen for the respiration system. Finned sharks drown, starve, or suffocate. Between 95% and 99% of all sharks that are caught are thrown into the ocean and wasted because fishermen take only the fins.
Shark finning has become a huge industry because shark fins are used in a soup called shark fin soup. Though shark fins add no taste to the soup, it is considered a delicacy.This has made shark fins a valuable commodity because one bowl of this soup can cost up to $100 in Asian countries where the soup is popular. Shark fin soup is a status symbol for both wealth and good health. Because of this, 100 million sharks are killed worldwide to provide shark fins for the soup. In the last 15 years, demand for shark fin soup has increased in a lot of places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore as economies in these places grow. The black market for shark fins has become just as lucrative as the illegal drug market.
Sharks have lived on our planet over 400 million years even before dinosaurs.Their evolution has been slow because they are perfectly designed to live in the ocean. Sharks have a negative connotation with many humans because people believe they are ferocious and threatening with their mouth full of teeth. Humans have started to create a strong sense of fear and hatred for sharks; however, these humans might be fretting over sharks for nothing! There are roughly only five people who die every year in the entire world by shark attack. According to a Surfer magazine poll published in their November, 2010 edition, surfers were asked this question, “While surfing how often do you think about sharks?” The response was shocking. Only 34% of the 2000 surfers who answered said never, 58% said occasionally, 6% said frequently, and 2% said always. Even people who are constantly in a shark’s environment have developed an unnecessary fear of sharks!
Still, people wonder why we should bother to save these animals that have the potential to eat them. Here’s why. Sharks control ocean population. Removing sharks, also known as top-level predators in the food chain, may disrupt lower levels of sea animals, resulting in an upset ecosystem and economy. An example of this is Cownose Ray population in Chesapeake Bay. Larger sharks prey on Cownose Rays, and with fewer of these sharks to keep the cownose rays’ population in control, they are decimating the scallop population which is one of their favorite foods.Because Cownose rays consume so many scallops, the scallop fishery in Chesapeake Bay has been greatly reduced, and millions of dollars have been lost. The same type of example occurs innumerable times throughout our ocean all because of the diminishing population of sharks. Because they are apex predators, sharks do not reproduce as fast as other fish. Many sharks only have one to four pups at one time, and many species take up to 15 years to reach sexual maturity. Sharks have three different adaptations for reproduction First, some sharks are oviparous, which means the shark lays eggs. The second method is viviparous where sharks give birth to live young just like mammals. Finally, some sharks have a unique reproductive adaptation called ovoviviparous.These sharks lay eggs inside their own body, and when the eggs hatch, sharks give birth to live juvenile sharks.
In places like Costa Rica, shark finning has caused the shark population to decline by almost 80% in the last 10 years.Even the United States has seen a shark decrease by almost 90% in the last 15 years. Because of the worldwide demand for shark fins, the black market for illegal shark finning has increased greatly.
Shark fins are bad for people, too. Research has shown that shark fins have a high mercury content, which may lead to cancer and a variety of other health problems. Some people think eating shark fin soup will heal them because they think that sharks don’t get sick, such as getting cancer; therefore, they think that it will make them healthy and avoid cancer. Eating shark fin soup will more likely kill you than heal you.
Sharks have amazing senses and adaptations such as the ampullae of lorenzini which are gel-like cells in sharks’ snouts that allows them to detect electricity. Sharks can smell as little as a drop of blood from a 1/3 of a mile away.Sharks have a lateral line sense that allows them to detect movement.Sharks have highly adapted eyes to see in dim light, and they have both rods and cones so they can see in color. Sharks also have the thickest skin in the animal kingdom at almost 10 cm. thick, and the skin is actually called dermal denticles because it more closely resembles teeth than skin.
Even though there are no international regulations to save sharks, 16 countries have already banned shark finning. Hawaii, which recently passed a no shark finning and shark fin products law, was the first state to do so in America. Proven research shows that people would stop eating shark fin soup, if only they knew how the fins were harvested. Protests against such places as Disney Hong Kong have resulted in the elimination of shark fin soup at Disneyland there. This proves that banning shark finning worldwide is not an impossible task! We must act for the good of the human race and the ecosystem. After all, the future lays on our decisions. Join us to save sharks and love them as much as we love dolphins and whales! I Love Sharks! Save Sharks!