In honor of Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week, here's an awareness piece about the gruesome practice of shark finning and how we can help end it.
Shark fin is a prized good in many parts of Asia, and the tradition of eating shark fin soup is highly associated with socioeconomic status. As more people are gaining access to this delicacy, shark populations have declined across the globe at astounding rates. Aside from being caught intentionally for their prized fins (and then thrown back into the water left to die), sharks are also bycatch victims of poor fishing techniques. It is estimated that populations of sharks and other top ocean predators have fallen 90% in recent years! At this progression, sharks will become extinct in a matter of a few generations if not just decades.
Ethics and humaneness aside, shark meat and fins contains high levels of methylmercury because of the animals' predatory nature*. This chemical has been linked to impaired fetus and infant neurological development as well as vision and hair loss in adults. Babies don't need direct exposure to methylmercury to be affected; exposure while being in the womb is enough to cause adverse health effects.
Some say the fins are good for joints because of their cartilage content. There are plenty alternatives that can take the place of toxic shark fins. It's about time that we help stop the buying so the killing can stop, too.
To learn more about shark finning and how you can become an ally to these majestic animals, visit montereybayaquarium.org or stopsharkfinning.net.
*Predatory fish, or those who are higher on the food chain, contain high levels of methylmercury because they eat all the smaller fishes. Methylmercury cannot be excreted out of their bodies so it's retained and accumulated up the food chain.