Sharks are one of the most important fish species in the ocean. They are one of the ocean’s top predatory species and because of this sharks are responsible for maintaining the balance of the ocean by controlling fish populations and eating sick and dying fish, which could spread diseases to other fish. But, there is a threat to the balance in the ocean created by sharks and it is the inhumane, unsustainable, and mostly unregulated shark finning industry.
Shark Finning is when a shark is captured and its fins are brutally cut from its body while it is still alive and then its body is thrown into the water, where the shark cannot swim and will drown or be eaten alive by other fish. The purpose of shark finning is to supply fins for shark fin soup, which is a popular dish mostly found in Southeast Asia and particularly in China, and also for traditional remedies. In China, shark fin soup is traditionally served to honor guests and at celebrations, so it is very popular at wedding ceremonies. Shark fins are tasteless in the soup and they are only added for the texture, which is something that can be easily replicated by substituting shark fins for melons or fish swim bladders, and because the fins are tasteless there is no point in eating them.
Shark finning is a very cruel process because of what it does to the shark. Sharks are not like other fish because they do not have swim bladders, which is an organ in fish that helps them maintain their buoyancy. It is because sharks do not possess a swim bladder that they have to constantly keep swimming in order to get oxygenated water to pass over their gills to allow them to breath and in order for them to stay afloat. When sharks have their fins cut off they are unable to swim anymore and they will die. Cutting off a shark’s fins is a death sentence for the shark, because they cannot grow their fins back they will always die. This is equivalent to cutting off a human’s limbs and throwing them in the ocean to die with them being completely helpless.
Shark fin soup has a huge impact on sharks, each year up to 73 million sharks are killed and finned for the purpose of shark fin soup. The shark finning industry is unsustainable because the huge quantities of sharks that are killed each year are not able to be replaced by the shark reproduction rate. Sharks are a k-selected species, which means “they expend a large amount of effort in producing few well developed offspring” (SharkTrust), and because of this each shark will not replace all of the sharks that have been killed. Shark populations are declining due to the shark finning industry and if the rate of shark killing does not reduce significantly sharks may go extinct. Already, out of over 400 total shark species “[a] total of 141 shark species are classified as threatened or near threatened with extinction . . .” (SharkSavers), which is about 35% of all of the shark species. The fishers take the fins from any shark regardless if it is endangered or a juvenile and because of the lack of restraint in fishing the sharks that are endangered are still being hunted and their population is still being reduced. If shark finning keeps going the way it is going then sharks will go extinct.
One could attempt to argue that sharks are vicious man-eating monsters that kill tons of people every year and that we are better off without them, but the reality of the situation is that sharks rarely kill people. The average number of shark related deaths that occur each year worldwide is only around five people. It is more likely that a person will die from being struck by lightning than it is that a person will die from a shark attack. Humans are way more dangerous to sharks than sharks are to people, humans kill 100 million sharks every year, while sharks only kill around five.
Sharks have been on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs and they have been maintaining the balance of the ocean since that time. It would be a real tragedy if the creatures that have been around for millions of years went extinct for something as small and insignificant as shark fin soup because of human selfishness and short-sightedness. Sharks are necessary for regulating life in the ocean and if they were killed off then the whole ecosystem would be affected and changed. If nothing happens to prevent sharks from being killed on this massive scale the whole ocean could be in jeopardy as well as have the normal fishing industry collapse. So, for the sake of what is right and what is necessary the capturing and killing of sharks must be stopped.
“Human Shark Bait.” National Geographic Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“Shark.” WorldWildlife.org. World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“Sharks.” WildAid. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“Shark Fin Soup.” The Shark Trust. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“The Impact of the Shark Fin Trade.” Shark Savers ::. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.
“The Importance of Sharks.” Oceana Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.