Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fantastic news for sharks!

11:29 AM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
Congratulations to the Shark Savers Singapore group on their recent wins in the battle to stop the consumption of shark fin soup! I was beyond thrilled to read this news article describing how more and more Asian companies are taking shark fin soup off their menus at corporate events as an act of environmental and social responsibility.

The act of shark finning is a cruel and wasteful practice that has caused 90 percent of shark species to become threatened with extinction (up from the previous 15 percent before the soup gained so much popularity). Because the fins of the sharks are the only part of its body that is used, fishers will cut the fins off the sharks and throw them back in the water to die. This allows hundreds of sharks to be killed on a single boat in one night because the fins do not take up room on the ship. 

Some countries, including the United States and European nations, created a ban on the use of shark products unless the whole body was brought back to shore with fins attached, hoping this would allow continued use of shark meat, but in a sustainable way since a boat can only hold so many. Unfortunately, this proved to be unsuccessful as poachers found loopholes. 

Then, Pacific states in the US banned shark fin trade, followed by the first inland state of Illinois. Some Central American countries also banned shark fin trade in an effort to protect their own highly productive coastal waters, and the movement started to gain momentum. 

I came across this meme in July and wanted to pop a bottle of champagne I was so happy! Chinese officials agreed to take shark fin soup off their menus at official functions. I repeated it over and over in my head. It's a small move, but from such a huge and influential consumer. Shark fin soup is a highly prized delicacy in China, often served at official functions, weddings, and celebrations. But when Asian celebrities such as Yao Ming found out how the shark fins were obtained, and what it was doing to the populations and ocean ecosystems, they began advocating for the shark. Their word started to make the difference. 

As Shark Savers Singapore's Director said, "We want local companies to come on board and Singaporean CEOs to make this pledge. It doesn't make sense, for instance, for Bill Gates to come and tell Singaporeans not to eat shark's fin. This isn't a foreign imported agenda". 

I am so glad to see this movement take off. When I first learned about this issue, I thought about how difficult it can sometimes be to change deep traditions of a massive group of people, but if we work from the inside out, perhaps this can be one of the biggest conservation success stories I will have witnessed so far in my life. 


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