The truth about shark finning and shark fin soup:
1. Sharks are harmful to humans. We are better off without them.
Although occassionally someone does get injured or killed by a shark, the number who do is actually incredibly small. You are sixteen times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be bitten by a shark. Although the number of human deaths caused by shark attacks is very small, these incidents are widely reported in the press due to their sensational and unusual nature. Sharks also have an image problem, partly because of films like Jaws, but also because they don’t have the “cutesy” factor that animals like dolphins and pandas do. Also – contrary to popular belief – only a very few species of shark ever attack humans – the others are totally harmless.
The idea that we might be “better off without sharks” betrays a detachment from nature and lack of understanding of how it works. In the natural world, all elements of an ecosystem are interconnected, and depend on each other in one way or another. Start taking away the “bricks” that hold up that ecosystem, and sooner or later it is going to collapse. This is particularly true in the case of top predators, such as most species of shark. Top predators act as the caretakers of their environment, picking off the weak and sick of smaller species, helping to ensure strong and healthy populations and a balanced ecosystem.
2. We live on the land. Who cares what happens in the oceans?
Although we live on land, we are not detached from it. 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean. Oceans contain 99% of the Earth’s living space and a huge amount of biodiversity. Scientists believe that there are approximately 240,000 marine species. We also rely on the oceans for much of our food. If we do not practice sustainable fishing methods and manage marine resources responsibly, we will leave an impoverished ocean for future generations. The fact that sharks have existed for 400 million years is testament to their success as a top predator and an ocean caretaker. If sharks are doing such a great job looking after the oceans maybe we should make sure that they are able to continue doing it!
3. If you ban the trade in shark fins, it will just lead to a black market trade.
While it is possible that some black market trade in shark fins may continue, as it has with ivory, it is extremely unlikely that the scale of trade after a ban would be as high as it is now. While large numbers of people are willing to risk punishment for the consumption of drugs, it is very doubtful that they would be willing to do this for the “pleasure” of a menu choice. Despite people’s best efforts, there will always be those who will stop at nothing for material gain, but the response of responsible society should be to take all the measures it can to stamp out activities that are detrimental to other species and the planet. A black market in slavery still exists in some parts of the world – does that mean it should not have been abolished?
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Great minds think alike.