According to a 2008 CNN report, the shark fin market is a million-dollar industry where people will pay up to $500 a pound, or over $100 for a bowl of shark-fin soup. Though it has no proven medicinal purpose, shark-fin soup is considered a delicacy by some, much like caviar in the West. There’s a certain privileged aura about the fish, which is often consumed by diners who are unaware of how the shark fins reached their bowl.
WildAir, an environmental organization, has a handful of highly informative reports on the environmentally damaging harvesting process known as “shark finning.” In short, to gather shark fins, harvesters capture sharks, cut off their fins, and dump the sharks back in the water. Unable to swim, the sharks drop to the sea floor and die of starvation or injuries incurred from the deep, reckless wounds. Hundreds of thousands of sharks die each year from this practice, which has an unforeseeable impact on the future of sharks and their eco-systems.
Though it may be too late, the world is catching on to its overindulgence, and in a positive and controversial move for conservation this week, Hawaii is banning the sales of shark fins. There will be a one-year grace period in Hawaii for restaurants to sell off their remaining shark fins, but after that – no more. Even in China, shark fin soup is becoming unfashionable (see Yao Ming in this WildAid anti-Shark Finning PSA). This step toward preservation is good news for both sharks and for Hawaii.
Banning the sale of shark fins, of course, doesn’t mean that people will stop finning sharks. The finners will inevitably head underground, but hopes are that their sales will dwindle too.
To keep current with shark conservation efforts, follow the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its Shark Specialist Group here.