The global overfishing of sharks is being driven by a cruel and unsustainable practice known as shark finning. ‘Finning’ refers to the catching of sharks, cutting off their fins and throwing their bodies back into the ocean, while they’re still alive. Mutilated and unable to move, the sharks will endure a slow and painful death either by suffocating, bleeding to death or by being eaten alive by other marine animals.
The vast majority of shark fins are used to make an expensive Asian delicacy known as shark fin soup. The fins provide the gelatinous bulk of the soup but are themselves tasteless. Despite this, the dish has traditionally held great cultural significance and is often served at events and on special occasions to symbolise a host’s power, wealth and generosity.
Consuming shark fin soup is said to have various health benefits, however, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, there are very real risk associated with consuming shark products due to high levels of mercury and other dangerous toxins that accumulate in the bodies of sharks.
As individual wealth and the desire for luxury items in China has increased, the number of people consuming shark fins has jumped from a few million 30 years ago to more than 300 million today. Every year, over 100 million sharks are killed around the globe. 73 million of these are killed primarily for their fins.
This horrific largescale slaughter is pushing many shark species to the brink of extinction and putting life in the world’s oceans at risk. Sharks simply cannot reproduce fast enough to survive the current rate of killing and consumption.
In Australia threatened species such as the hammerhead shark continue to be killed for their fins, despite international agreements designed to protect the species and limit the trade.
Photo: Madison Stewart